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?