Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Walk away. 




Count to ten.


Collect your thoughts.


Think before you speak.


Someone you (love, have as your superior, are responsible for) has just said something that pushed your explode button.  But you know you should respond, not react so you take the above advice.  Good for you.  You did not allow your emotions to rule you.

Emotions are a very important gift from our God.  They are helpful, wonderful, powerful, and at times challenging.  They may also be very destructive if we misplace them on the hierarchy of place in our lives.
There are two basic mistakes that we can make and these have consequences in the spiritual life.  The first is to make them our masters.  “I feel and therefore it is!”  I feel angry (or you make me angry) and therefore I have the right to act.  I feel love and therefore I have the mandate to act on it even if it is sinful or destructive.  I feel blue and therefore have the right to (eat too much, drink too much, watch too much T.V., plug in any vice.)


Emotions are not our rulers.  They are there to tell us that something important is happening in our lives and we need to pay attention.  But after paying attention we need to act rationally.  So if I am angry, I walk away for a minute, calm down, think, and respond.  If I find the waitress enchanting, I remember my vow to my wife and my responsibility to my children.  If I am blue, I remember that eating that bag of Value Time Cheese Curls will not fill the hole but will only make me regret over eating the next morning and thus continuing the cycle.
On the other hand, turning Vulcan and ignoring emotions is just as dangerous.  Pushing them down, suppressing them, ignoring them, muscling your way through them is like dropping Mentos in Diet Coke; sooner or later they are going to come squirting out in some inappropriate way. 
So they neither our bosses nor or they able to be ignored.  They are like puppies, they need to be dealt with but in an appropriate way.  Puppies need discipline but they also need to go out and do their business.
As to the faith life, whether one “feels” God or not is no indication that God is present or that prayer was good or that one is closer to God or not.  In fact, it is often the case that when we think He is not there that He is the closest, the prayer was working hardest, that we were most transformed. 
God cannot not be near you.  Did you celebrate a sacrament?  God was there and acted.  Did you feel exhilarated?  Be thankful for the consolation, remember it for the times you feel desolation, and move on.  Do you feel desolation?  Review your life.  Does anything need worked out?  If not, trust God and move on.  If Mass is as dry to you as sand on toast in the desert, that is Okay.  God still works.  Is a prayer exhilarating to you ask if you are just being entertained or if something good is really happening.  Your emotions are trying to speak to you, not rule you.


Karen said...

I needed this today. I had a really lousy morning that could have gone much better if I had taken a few seconds to collect myself instead of exploding. Gives me something to work on for the rest of the day, I guess.

Anonymous said...

psychology 101

Anonymous said...

This is great advice, Father! I've also learned a lot these past few years about how much our emotions can be affected by not just our spiritual health, but also our physical health. I've been amazed to learn about how many health conditions dramatically affect our emotional outlook and responses. Brain tumors, infections and diseases(such as dementia), hormonal imbalances such as thyroid problems, diabetes related blood sugar problems, and even vitamin deficiencies (such as vitamin b), can drastically affect our emotions and are a serious symptom requiring medical treatment. It has been encouraging to me and helped me not to be so hard on others or myself because I am reminded that we are frail physical beings. So yes, definitely receive the sacraments, but also seek medical attention if need be!

MaryofSharon said...

Actually this post is pretty solid Spirituality 101, too.

Having been recently introduced to Ignatian spirituality, I've been surprised, if not a bit taken aback, by the attention that Ignatius gives to emotions (or "movements which are caused in the soul") in his foundational rules on the discernment of spirits. I always have been more of the mind that emotions needed to be reined in, unruly and misdirected as they often are. But Ignatius is helping me to see that one ought to carefully attended to his or her emotions, some to be received as gifts from God (the "good spirit") meant to be help us to love and serve Him and others better, while others, which he actually describes as being from the "evil spirit", to be rejected and not acted upon. It's the ability to discern which to receive and act upon and which to reject that makes all the difference.

A great introduction to this subject can be found by listening to Fr. Timothy Gallagher's audio series on the on "The Discernment of Spirits" .