Monday, October 4, 2010

Driving Forces: The Danger of Operating From Feelings Only


So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
Galatians 5:16-17

Did you try the experiment I recommended in the last article? How did it go? Which driving force played the largest role in your decision-making process? I wonder if you discovered the same thing that I did: my emotional state controlled too much of my day-to-day life.

This isn't surprising since we consistently hear from cultural influences that we should satisfy our emotional needs. Nike's slogan encourages us to "just do it." McDonald's tells us that we "deserve a break today." Most marketing jingles suggest we might be happier people if we regularly attended to our emotional and physical needs.

Are those messages accurate? A better question might be, how successful have you been in your efforts to feel happy?

I have never taken a cruise vacation, although it sounds fun. I have known a few people who have and they tell me the food is amazing. It sounds like there are 24 hours a day buffet meals available of the most deliciously-prepared dishes. I imagine it would be easy to tell myself (if I were to go on such a vacation) that a few days of unrestrained eating wouldn't hurt me. Most cruise ship vacationers tell me, however, that they return home at least 5 pounds heavier.

Dallas Willard, in Renovation of the Heart, points out that most of us make our emotional state the driving force in our lives. However, he goes on to say that this drive should not have the first priority, rather the last. Living based on how we feel will result in impulsive decisions, expensive splurges, and regular overindulgences resulting in us feeling out of control, overwhelmed, disappointed, and ultimately ashamed. Operating out of our feeling state doesn't work.

Maybe you are still an unbeliever. If so, then deliberately take one small area of your life and live only from your emotions. Act only if you feel like it. Don't go to the gym to work out unless you are in the mood. Only go to work when you feel inspired or motivated. Then let me know if you still believe this method works.

What should be the main driving force in our lives? Feelings are the last thing that should be considered when making a decision. However, they are important and God-given. So, in the next article I will discuss what role emotions are supposed to play in our lives.

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