Posts Tagged ‘emotions’

PSALM 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
    Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
    so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than those who watch for the morning,
    more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
    from all its iniquities.

The special power of forgiveness is absolutely essential to the forward advance of our human evolution, if there is any hope for our fulfillment as a species. This evolution, more important than scientific discoveries and technological progress, has to do with our ability to live together in communities of freedom, justice, equality, love and fidelity.

What complicates this idealistic picture to a great degree are the reactive and conflicting energies of our emotional experience. When someone does us wrong, the act itself may be physically long past, and its various conditions rationally understood, but the feelings of hurt, resentment, and vengefulness can burn inside us for years and years. We may even have forgotten the details of the event, and the face of the perpetrator may lie below our conscious recall, but this seething tangle of fixated emotions will continue to erupt spontaneously when we are fatigued, stressed out, or feel caught in a similar scenario.

To forgive is nether to dismiss the severity of the offense or injury, nor to wave aside the fact of your pain. Rather it is a rational decision to let go of the impulse to either curl up in an emotional ball of self-pity or lash out in a vicious or calculating attempt to get even. It’s not simply waiting for the pain to pass; it’s choosing to get on with your life.

2 SAMUEL 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom.

So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword.

Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.

15 And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.

31 Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, “Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.” 32 The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.”

33  The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

David wasn’t a coward by any means, and his decision to treat Absalom with respect even though his son was out for his blood should be seen as a character strength and not a weakness. Like every other human being, he felt the surge of emotions when things went for or against him. But unlike other human beings, David seemed fairly able to bring his emotions under the command of rational judgment.

While the emotions might be considered the spice of human experience, it is remarkably easy to corrupt a recipe by letting them get out of hand. Desire can flare into an obsessive craving, fear can expand into a paralyzing anxiety, and anger can explode in a fit of violent rage. Each of these primary emotions serves an important function in animal experience – moving us toward what is beneficial (desire), away from what is dangerous (fear), and against what is needing to be overcome (anger).

In addition to being possessed of instinctual and emotional formations in our brain anatomy, however, we humans have also evolved a cerebral cortex which gives us the capacity for symbolic thought, language, logic and intuition. It is this ‘higher brain’ that opens to us the possibilities of our distinctly human culture with its art, science, morality, politics and religion. The hope of all of that depends on our emotional self-control.