July 20th, 2013| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


Emotions? Utterly untrustworthy.

Or so they said.

I remember a popular gospel tract that pictured the sequence as a train: “Fact” was the engine; “Faith” was the rest of the train; “Feeling” made up the caboose, the last car. In other words, don’t worry about the Feelings. As long as you got the Facts and you have Faith in the Facts, the Feelings will automatically follow.

Or so they said.

We humans, however, have always had the suspicion that this neat order was not so neat in real life. While Facts are important, don’t Feelings have a say in what we have Faith in? Cannot Feelings even color how we see Fact?

Recent studies have shown that our suspicions were right. In a study led by Timothy Wilson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, college students were asked to report on their feelings.

Participants evaluated five art posters: a Monet, a Van Gogh, a cartoon of animals in a balloon, and two enlarged photos of cats with humorous captions. One half of the participants (A) were asked to give reasons for their liking or disliking a poster; the other half (B) did not have to provide a reason. All of them were permitted to take the poster of choice home.

95% of the B group chose one of the art posters. 64% of the A group chose an art poster, and were about seven times more likely than the B group to take home a funny animal poster.

But here’s the interesting thing. A few months later, each participant was contacted and asked about their poster choice again. The curious thing was that the A group (“reasons”) were less likely to have put up the poster, less likely to have kept it up on a wall, and less satisfied with it than the B group (“no reason”). It seems that over a period of time, the attitudes of A to the posters shifted, to correspond to those of B.

Prof. Wilson and his team explained that when the A group was asked to give reasons for their choice, they focused on elements easy to verbalize: bright colors, funny content, etc. It was far more difficult to point out what exactly was pleasing about a Monet or a Van Gogh. In other words, the Facts, easily enumerated, pointed to their liking a non-art poster, even though their Feelings did not (as evidenced by their later reactions to their choices). Apparently the A group had adjusted their Feelings to coincide with the Facts and chose the animal posters: cognitive dissonance.

Of course, there are times when “facts” must rule, and “feelings” must submit. But … there are other times when “feelings” reign.

The researchers concluded (in the title of their paper): “Introspecting about Reasons can Reduce Post-Choice Satisfaction.”

Bottom line: We must be especially careful when deciding in areas when it is easier to verbalize something inconsequential about the issue (color of the carpet in church vs. spiritual life of congregation; loudness of drums in the worship band vs. accuracy to the text and relevance to life of the sermon; etc.).

Listen, even God has feelings!

The LORD … was grieved in His heart.
Genesis 6:6

… grieved at their hardness of heart,
He [Jesus] said ….
Mark 3:5

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
Ephesians 4:30

And the Bible even commands us to “feel”:

Delight yourself in the LORD.
Psalm 37:4

Be angry, and yet do not sin.
Ephesians 4:26

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Philippians 4:4

So, feel free to feel, folks!

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