When confronted with some facts based information, how many times do you hear people say, “…but I feel” this or that, as if their feelings were the basis for everything they do, say or think? Should we make major life decisions based on our feelings? Is it wise to come a conclusion about a matter based on our feelings about it? Should we make moral choices that determine what is right and wrong based on our feelings? To what degree can we trust our feelings? How reliable are they? If we cannot trust our feelings, then what can we trust? These are the questions we will answer below.
In our modern culture, it is becoming more common for people to act or speak based largely, if not totally, on their feelings. Facts and truth are becoming more and more irrelevant. After all, what is truth and who can know it?
For many people, whether they know it or not, feelings have become their “moral compass” determining what is right and wrong and thus their actions. Is this a reliable standard to follow? If everyone is following their feelings, does this promote and insure peace and stability in a society over the long haul? Whose feelings are right and whose are wrong? What happens when what you feel is right conflicts with what I feel is wrong? Who resolves the conflict? Other people making decisions based on their feelings? If feelings are the yardstick by which we measure things, then whose yardstick to we use? These all may seem like difficult questions to answer, but truth is that there is a bottom line to this issue, and it is really quite simple. Let us now discover what that bottom line is and how we can know what is right or wrong, and when and when not to trust our feelings or those of others.
First, what are feelings? The dictionary defines feelings as “an emotional state or reaction; the emotional side of someone’s character; emotional responses or tendencies to respond; a belief, especially a vague or irrational one.” In short, feelings are our emotions as opposed to our rational mind or intellect.
Here are some important questions we need to ask ourselves about feelings:
- Aren’t feelings nothing more than subjective emotions? Emotions may be influenced by a person’s biases and prejudices, their base passions, their environment, the culture around them, the environment in which they were raised (family, friends, school, church) or genetics. Are all these things trustworthy and reliable factors for determining the validity of one’s feelings or emotions? If feelings are to be the determiner of what is right or wrong, then who determines whose and which feelings are valid or not?
- Can you trust your feelings? Will they always lead you to do the right thing? What is “the right thing” and who determines what is right or wrong and on what basis is such a determination made?
- What if one person’s feelings tell them to do one thing, while another person’s feelings tell them to do the opposite thing and the actions resulting therefrom result in conflict, then what? Who is right? In this case, it usually comes down to a fight where “might makes right” or “the majority rules.” This is called mob rule. In such a case, the feelings of the person(s) or mob with the most power or influence determines whose feelings are “correct.” When this occurs, “truth” ultimately depends on who has the most convincing argument, who is the most aggressive, who has the loudest voice, who has the largest number of followers or eventually who has the biggest fist or gun.
- Where do morals fit in with feelings? Are feelings a reliable determiner of what is morally right or wrong? What if one person’s feelings-based morality clashes with that of another person? Who is right then? For example, one person’s feelings tell him it is all right to rape, steal, lie or commit adultery, while another person’s feelings tell him it’s wrong. Who is right? Who determines what is right or wrong in this case?
- What is to stop each person from doing what is right in his own eyes based on his subjective feelings?
- Is there a problem with the following statements?: “If it feels good, do it,” or, “Do what thou wilt is the whole law.” Where does such a philosophy lead? Can societal order be maintained when this is the dominant philosophy?
- If feelings are the basis for human action, then who determines whose feelings-based standards to follow? Do we follow the feelings of the majority of the people? How does the majority know what is right or wrong? By their feelings? Just because a majority of people say something is right based on the feelings of the majority, does that make it right?
- What if the feelings of a person or majority change over time, then who is right? Were the feelings right then or are they right now?
- In Nazi Germany, the majority of the people felt one thing at one time was right and this negatively affected the lives of millions of people. Does this mean they were right then and not now, or vice versa? Does this mean that what is right and wrong changes from time to time based on the shifting feelings of the individual, or a group of individuals called a nation? How can we insure that our own capricious whims are not the motivating factors behind our shifting feelings?
- Does there not need to be laws beyond the human individual that determine what is right and wrong or set standard for all to follow? What human individual or human agency is in the place of such over-arching or transcendent respect and authority to be able determine these standards that everyone must follow, so that the actions of one person’s feelings do not hurt someone else? Once these standards are established, what human has the authority to legally enforce these standards? A king, dictator or president? A congress or parliament? A judge? The United Nations? How have these systems of government been working out for people so far? Is man solving his systemic societal and ethical problems, or do the same problems keep reoccurring generation after generation with no resolution yet in sight?
- Are all feelings bad? Don’t feeling need a “track” to run on, so to speak, so “the train” of one’s life does not get derailed? Don’t one’s feelings need a moral path to follow to keep one out of the ditches (or from going over the cliff) on either side of the road of life? We have rules of the road when driving automobiles. There are center lines, turn lanes, guard rails, stop signs and traffic lights. Most humans have no difficulty understanding the need for rules when driving a vehicle to prevent mayhem on the roadways. What about the moral and spiritual roadways of life? Who determines these rules so that men don’t “crash” morally and spiritually bringing ruination upon themselves and others?
Railroad tracks or automobile roadways are like moral guidelines: they keep you on a certain path that leads to a destination. Moral and spiritual guidelines must be established by a higher and wiser authority. The only higher and wiser authority above man is his Creator—YHVH Elohim. Due to the superior power, authority and intellect of man’s Maker, only he can be the determiner of truth—what is right and wrong.
Thankfully, Elohim did not leave man to wander aimlessly in a spiritual void or darkness to follow the eve changing vicissitudes of his feelings. He gave man a “how-to manual” on life called the Bible. The Bible informs or instructs our minds on how to regulate our feelings. These guidelines are like the rails on which the train of our life can ride without derailing. They are like a roadway on which our vehicle can safely travel—a road that is engineered for our safety with lines, markings, signs and guard rails and rules to follow. These rules are for our personal safety and for that of others. Humans too often can easily see the need for safety rules when driving a car, but not when it comes to driving the vehicle of their lives.
As independently-minded humans, if we follow our natural inclination, we tend to want to make up the rules as we go along to suit ourselves based on what feels right to us at the time and based on the whims of our feelings. Another name for this is moral relativism or situational ethics. This is following the dictates of one’s own heart without thinking and taking our Creator’s guidelines or rules into consideration, or how what we do effects others. This is the religion of self-worship and is called secular humanism where man and not Elohim is on the throne of our life.
In our modern society as more people move away from a biblical-based ethic, the humanistic movements of Darwinianism, socialism, democratic socialism, progressivism and communism are filling the void of men who are turning away from traditional biblical values. These philosophies are designed to move men further away from Elohim and his Truth. Ultimately, humanism is the religion of rebellion and hatred for Elohim and his laws. The religion of secular humanism seems right to a man and is alluringly packaged so that humans will buy in to it. This is what the serpent presented to the first humans at the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. He promised life if they would rebel against the Creator, but it ended up in death for man. This is the path of sin, rebellion, and separation from the Creator which leads to death and eternal separation from the One who lovingly made man in his own image and offered him a bright future with an eternal destiny.
Here are some Scriptures to consider with regard to letting feelings be a person’s moral guide:
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. (Prov 14:12; 16:25)
All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but YHVH weigheth the spirits. (Prov 16:2)Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but YHVH pondereth the hearts.(Prov 21:2)
There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. (Prov 30:12)
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise. (Prov 12:15)
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer 17:9)
And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me(Jer 16:12)
He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered. (Prov 28:26)
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies… (Matt 15:19)
And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man. (Mark 7:20–23)
YHVH looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek Elohim. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Ps 14:2–3)
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against Elohim: for it is not subject to the law of Elohim, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please Elohim. (Rom 8:6–8)
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of Elohim. (Gal 5:19–21)
Behold, I send a Messenger before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him. But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My Messenger will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off. You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars. So you shall serve YHVH your Elohim, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you. Exod 23:20–25
The last Scripture passage in this list teaches us that YHVH wants us to follow his Messenger through the wilderness of life, and not our feelings or what we think is right. That Messenger is Yeshua the Messiah, who is YHVH Torah-Word, who was revealed to man in flesh form (John 1:1, 14).
Relying exclusively on our feelings to let them determine one’s course of action is like building one’s house on a foundation of shifting sand. This is something Yeshua taught that only a fool does (Matt 7:24–27).
There is a wonderful place in the human experience for human passions, feelings and emotions. Once one makes logical, rationally-based decisions that are founded on the truth or eternal principles as revealed to us from the Creator through his Word, the Bible, emotional feelings can add much richness, depth and dimension to one’s life. Emotions are not designed, however, to be man’s leader. YHVH created them to follow the mind of man, which in turn must follow the higher moral and spiritual Truth of the Spirit and Word of Elohim. The mind can then instructs the emotions or feelings on how to react within the established guidelines as determined by YHVH.
David, for example, was a man of great emotional passion and expressed these feelings in his numerous psalms as recorded in the Bible, yet he submitted everything to the will or Word of Elohim. He subordinated his feeling to the truth of YHVH’s divinely revealed Torah, which is the bedrock of absolute Truth (Ps 119:142) and is the reflection of Elohim’s divine character. Read the Psalm 119—the entire chapter—and you will gain a clear understanding of this. YHVH’s Word is the highest level of Truth there is; there is no higher or deeper Truth than that! David based his actions on whether they were in line with the commandments of Elohim. He did not base his actions on his feelings. When he trusted his feelings exclusively, he brought shame, misery and judgment upon himself (i.e., when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and when he numbered Israel).
The Torah or Word of Elohim is the rail or road that YHVH designed the vehicle of human life to travel on. Without the guide of YHVH’s Torah-Word, a man’s “vehicle” will be wandering and swerving all over the place, both on and off the road driven by the capricious and ever-changing whims of human feelings or emotions. It is only a matter of time before his life will end up in the ditch on the side of the road, or worse yet, he will crash through the guardrails and go over a cliff! Many reading this have tried this approach in your past life and found that it doesn’t work.
So what are the benefits of following the Truth of Elohim compared to each person following his or her own feelings? Think of it this way. If someone is building a house and each of the contractors or tradesman working on the house—the excavator, foundation layer, framer, electrician, roofer, plumber, finish carpenter and so on—has a different system of measurement, how will this house be constructed? It will be total chaos! When everyone is using the same system of measurement whether the English or metric system, then there will be harmony between all of the workers and the house will get constructed in an orderly and beautiful fashion. Likewise, if everyone in society were to follow the same biblical standards as revealed to man by his Creator on how to live and how to treat one another, would there not be universal peace on earth? And if conflicts were to arise, there would be a universal standard of right and wrong to bring justice and to resolve those conflicts. This, then, is but one of the many benefits of aligning one’s life with Elohim’s biblical standards of Truth as opposed to just letting one’s feelings or emotions dictate how one should or should not act.
Now ask yourself the following question, and be honest with yourself: How much of what I do, say and think is dictated to me by my capricious and impulsive feelings as opposed to the Word of Elohim? Now go and do the right thing and see if the quality of your life does not improve significantly!