Emotions can be inconvenient. Let’s get that out of the way right from the get-go. They often times lead us to make irrational decisions that turn out to be less than ideal. Think about when you see something that you really want at the store and purchase it without considering whether or not you need it. Why else would every grocery store put all of the chocolate right by the checkout counter? They know that your enjoyment of chocolate will lead you to make an impulse decision and purchase a candy bar without thinking about it if it is right there by checkout.
However, emotions are also human. We are not purely utilitarian calculators that consider every possible consequence of every possible action and then move in a direction that appears to maximize the good of society. Some people might argue that it would be better if we could function in that way, but the reality is that we simply are not able to do it.
We have interference in that logical system from our emotions. Emotions can modify those calculations and make certain outcomes appear more or less advantageous than they really are. I recently had to purchase a new van, but I really didn’t want to. My former vehicle was getting old and needed more and more repairs. It was time to move on, but because I was attached, my emotions made those inconveniences feel less inconvenient because I wanted them to be less inconvenient. I didn’t want to get rid of my old van, so the pure logic took a while to ultimately win.
Why does it seem to be the case that people were created this way? Why would God give people these types of feelings that influence our behavior and sometimes undesirable ways? Why can’t we all be perfect utilitarian calculators?
Consider that not all emotions are bad. We often times think of the times that emotions clouded our judgment and brought us into bad situations. However, emotions make the good times that much better as well. Without emotions, we could simply say that a particular outcome created the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. We could never say that a particular situation created joy, happiness, excitement, love or peace. A good situation would not be one that made us feel any different but rather did not cause any harm.
I think there’s a reason that the New Testament is full of language that speaks about emotion. For instance, consider the fruit of the Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, KJV).
These are all somehow related to our emotions. They are good things that make us feel good and create positive emotions in the people around us.
I wrote recently about how the joy that Jesus brought to the world is not necessarily an emotional happiness. However, we would be remiss if we think that we ought to eliminate all of our emotions.