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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Roach

Pay Attention to the Feelings That You Have

I'm a huge CS Lewis fan (hint: don't start a conversation with me about, "Till We Have Faces" unless you've got some time), but this quote is symbolic of a problem.

This quote - and plenty of others like it from a wide variety of people - is used in the Protestant/Evangelical world as a kind of anti-emotional statement. In that world, emotions are not to be trusted. If you feel happy about something, you must put that happiness under the microscope of extreme suspicion. The emotion itself is not considered worthy information.

And, sure, there is some wisdom in that. If I fully followed my loves to their complete end, I would end up with some terrible consequences. And so, in the Puritan world of Evangelicalism, feeling love (or any other emotion) is seen as a very dangerous thing to base actions on. But its such an anxiety-based stance. You MIGHT love the wrong things. You MIGHT follow your love too far. You MIGHT step out of line.

But when I go to the Temple (still, just for endowment isn't for another 3 months, which is going to take about 10 years) I'm told to pay attention to the feelings I have and use them as information and education. I chatted with a Temple worker yesterday. He says, "My guess is that you know how to suck every bit of information out of a book or a college class. And that's good. It's taken you far. But in the Temple you have to learn differently. You are always wanted here in the House of the Lord. Maybe you need to learn what that feels like because something tells me you don't know." Caught.

My study of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) helps here too. DBT has plenty to say about how to understand our emotions. One of the big DBT questions is: How do I know when I can trust my emotions? Or, how do I know my emotions are not leading me astray? Examples of emotions leading people astray abound - and its why the evangelicals are so suspicious of emotions as guides. But DBT takes a much more sensible approach with this simple formula...Do the facts fit the emotions? Here is an example...if I am searching for a house to buy, I have many factors to consider. If I fall in love with a house because of its beauty or location, I still have to weigh many other things - how is the roof? does it have mold? what repairs need to be done? If I determine that a house is going to be a money -pit, it shouldn't matter how in love with it I am, the facts don't support the emotion. DBT says, "If the facts don't fit, you must act opposite." In this case, if the house is a money pit I dont buy it, no matter what my emotions tell me. I must act opposite of my emotions.

And I have feelings of happiness in the Temple. Feelings of being wanted and accepted. I hate to say that I lack those feelings in other parts of my life, but I do. (It's okay, because my guess is that you do too.) So, I consider the facts and see that they DO fit. I do have reason to believe that perhaps Heavenly Father wants me to feel his love and acceptance. I can accept this emotion as educational information.

I wonder what in me will change when I actually believe these feelings.

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