The God who designed us as creatures with bones and skin also equipped us with all sorts of feelings and emotions. Good.
But that same Creator warns us not to trust that our feelings are always an accurate reflection of reality. He even commands us to “live above” our feelings. We are, for example, to love our enemies whether we feel like it or not.
Sometimes, maybe even many times, our feelings accurately reflect reality. But not even close to “always.” Surely the unhappiest people on the planet are those who always trust their feelings and set them up as the gods they follow at any terrible cost.
I mean no disrespect to “man’s best friend” when I say that we humans often operate at a level somewhere below that of our dogs. And our dogs sometimes misinterpret reality.
If you meet a dog in the park, unwisely thrust out your hand to pet the cute little beast, all the while with nothing in your heart but love, warmth, kindness, and the best of human intentions, but he nonetheless perceives your action as threatening, you may draw back a bloody human paw. The dog has reacted not to reality but to his perception of it, the way he “feels” about it. He may be dead wrong. But he’ll bite you anyway.
With a little time, and if he’s a fairly intelligent beast, he may learn that his estimation of your intentions was flawed. Eventually, he may even allow you to reach down more carefully and pet him with your remaining good hand.
More likely, he won’t wait to change his opinion; he’ll tuck tail and run barking over the hill, desperate to get away from you. He’ll likely be even quicker to sink his teeth into the next human who innocently tries to pat his head. For the rest of his doggy years, he’ll live firmly convinced that all humans who try to pet him are mean, malicious, mutt-haters who should be run from or bitten. That is truly how he feels. Even if he is truly mistaken.
Would that this were only a problem with dogs!
How many people live just as witlessly, wrongly, mistakenly! Because they completely, blindly, trust their often fouled up feelings—feelings rendered untrustworthy by tragic backgrounds, bad upbringing, mental disease or distress, or even bad digestion or too little sleep—they draw wrong conclusions about the motives or intentions of others. Then they run around snapping and biting folks who’ve done nothing to deserve it.
We need to pay attention to our feelings. Filter them. Judge them. Evaluate them. But God help us, and those around us, if we think we can always trust them and if we worship them as invariably infallible gods.
No wonder Jesus warned us about not judging others. We’ve got our hands full just trying to be honest about ourselves.
Personally, I’d trust a dog with a good nose a lot farther than I’d trust a biting, barking, snapping, ill-tempered human.
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Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.