Ignore emotions at your own peril

Time magazine recently discussed dealing with the risk of swine flu and the writer (sept 22 ’09) made an interesting aside as to how the mind deals with risk and decision making; “Over the past 50 years, researchers who study human judgment have realized that we rely on emotions to make decisions about risk. We can’t possibly mull over every new piece of data our brains collect, so our emotions give us shortcuts, helping us make split-second judgments about that information. The more uncertainty, the more shortcuts we use. This is a good thing. People who have suffered brain damage that removes emotions from their calculations cannot function. They can’t make decisions, even simple ones.

Unfortunately in the church, we have dismissed emotions like one’s appendix. We all have them, but they don’t really do anything. Preachers concede that we must acknowledge our emotions but then in the next breath encourage us to ignore them dismissing them with throw-away lines like “we walk by faith not feeling”. The reality is we have created a generation of christians who really have no idea how to manage their emotional health because of the disconnect.

If researchers are right (and I suspect they are in this case) that emotions are significant in decision making, christian leaders will need to get their head around it and deal with it, rather than viewing emotions as a side effect and inconsequential. As analytical and introverted as I am, I’ve come to realize I’m far more emotional than I would like to think. The problem is, I have no idea how to understand, acknowledge and manage my emotions, because I’ve always been taught they are more of a hindrance than a help.


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