“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.” – Galatians 5:16-18.
“Don’t be so emotional!” “Don’t let your feelings run away with you!” “Big boys don’t cry.” “Calm down and let’s be rational about this.” Life is full of warnings to keep our emotional lives in check. Yet sometimes emotions make our decisions for us.
The parents who rule by discipline without emotion want to control their kids while the parents that rule by emotion without discipline give their children free rein and try to be their kids’ friend rather than their parent. If you are an emotion without discipline parent, you’ll find yourself frequently saying things like, “If it feels good, do it.” That means making your decisions based on feelings. Many people feel that feelings make the decisions more authentic, more real, but do they? I think it is the opposite. We live in a culture that puts emotions and feelings on a pedestal. Letting your feelings determine your life decisions is short sighted and will not work because it is immature.
Why? Let me say first that emotions can be part of the decision process, but in balance. A child has not yet to make sound decisions let alone handle their emotions. A child can have a nice assortment of toys to choose from and they straight for the bleach in the laundry hamper. They have many options but they usually go for the one that has chemicals. Kids think they can make good decisions, but often they do not. And we are not talking about toddlers here. Remember back to middle school and high school; you will probably have any number of decisions that you look back on and ask “what was I thinking?”
Think about what would happen to animals if they mimicked humans and made immature, emotional decisions. Think of the antelope on the plains in Africa rolling his eyes as he said, “I’m old enough to think for myself, Mom” or “ Dad, you got to stop suffocating me because I’m faster than the lion.” So he saunters over to the lion and starts taunting the trash talking. “My parents said I should run, but I am afraid of you.” Yes, I know that lions have been eating antelopes for millennia, but I feel good about my chances. The antelope may get away the first time, but sooner than later he will appear on National Geographic with the lions circling his carcass. Emotions alone will not result in good decisions.
Satan wants nothing more than to deceive and lead children astray. I can think of no more urgent need in our urban context than to raise up a generation of children who love God and hate evil. Teaching your child God’s ways and how to live a home run life begins at home and moves on to first base when they mold their character.
- How much should emotions play in the decision process?
- When do you think a child is ready to handle their emotions?
- What is the difference in your mind between feelings and emotions?
- What can we do this week to better balance emotions and discipline in the decision making process?