Love. Anger. Fear. Etc.

courtesy amazon.com

I was with a group of guys last week and the subject was fear.   If you look around these days you’ll see young men wearing No Fear shirts.  You’ll see No Fear decals in the rear windows of man-trucks the size of aircraft carriers.  In the parlance of 12-steppers, many men treat fear like a defect of character.  It’s my observation that some women treat anger in the same way (while men often consider it a birth rite).   Recently, a fellow blogger wrote a post about someone she hated at work, expressing guilt because she was taught, partly by her religion, not to hate.  According to Dictionary.com, hate means to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest.   So, if it’s unChristian to hate, is it OK to dislike?  Dislike a little?  My blogger friend’s colleague had certainly earned her extreme dislike and even a few revenge fantasies.

Meanwhile, love gets more than a hall pass … it gets to be a divine attribute.   After all, we’re supposed to love our neighbor, unless we’re married, of course, then we can love our neighbor but not love our neighbor.   And never mind that as humans we often choose to love people that hurt us.  Don’t get me started on happiness.   People from certain 12-Step programs say God wants us to be happy, joyous and free but in spite of the fact that I’ve done a substantial amount of all three, I ask, Really?  All the time?   There are times the blind pursuit of happiness is the bane of our society.

It occurs to me that I’m starting to sound like Andy Rooney, so I’ll get to my point.   Love, anger, fear, hate and happiness are among the 53 emotions listed by Wikipedia.  Human emotions are not defects of character and they occur naturally.   In fact the functionalist approach to emotions holds that emotions have evolved for a particular function, such as to keep the subject safe.  We’ve given our emotions labels such as good, bad, pleasant, unpleasant and even sinful.  Based on our labels, we either welcome or resist certain emotions … and it was psychologist Carl Jung who said, What you resist persists.  So, we tend to keep the very emotions we resist around longer than the ones we prefer.

That’s not to say there’s no connection between emotions and defects of character.   Many defects of character stem from the way we behave in response to  certain emotions.   We seek revenge to act out our anger or we enable harmful behaviors out of love.   We carry resentments because of anger we’ve never really processed and we fear things that we think may happen in the future.   But at sixty-seven, I can see that life isn’t just happy, joyous and free.   Talking about fear last week, someone said, If you worry why pray, if you pray why worry?   Well, I worry even though I pray because sometimes bad things still happen.  That’s not an indictment of God … it’s just fact.   And I continue to pray because it helps me get through whatever does happen.

But I don’t waste my time feeling guilty about my emotions although like most, I do resist some … my personal unfavorite is sadness.  How about you?

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10 Comments on “Love. Anger. Fear. Etc.”

  1. Judy Says:

    Can of worms anyone? Emotions are tricky. Mainly because depending on one’s training or rules for emotions (or lack there of), emotions are often used as an excuse to indulge in bad or foolish behavior–manipulation, cursing (not cussing, cursing others), jumping into relationships, even violence, just to name a scant few.

    I have gleaned from various sources (counseling, bible study, books) over the years and teach my kids, emotions are not good or bad, but our response is what counts. This goes along the line of “be angry, yet sin not.” The only thing in life we can control is Self. If we focus more on self-control rather than trying to control the behavior of others (even ugly behavior directed at us), it is character that is developed and ultimately, that is our greatest reward. (sorry if this sounds “teachy” I am simply writing what is playing in my head as I converse with my kids about what they face at school too).

    Hate is ugly and gets ugly all over everyone. Hate evil and spread as much love as you can–the world could always use more of it.

    Nice, thought provoking post for a Saturday!

    • oldereyes Says:

      I think we mostly agree. I once took a course called Introduction to Judaism. Someone (a Christian) in the class started talking about loving everyone and the Rabbi said in Judaism, it’s OK to hate someone like Hitler, who’s earned it. I suppose that comes under the heading of hating evil. My point is that hate has connotations that go way beyond the actual meaning of the word.

      • Smaaak Says:

        I kinda can’t hate hitler. He’s just the front man, How can on single lone guy commit so much atrocities across the board all by his lonesome self? In that case hate a nation. Well, that would be extreme prejudice won’t it? So might as well hate all mankind because in experiments, good people, given the very right and ripe conditions to overuse power ( notice I don’t yet use the extreme word abuse) for their own gain, are very likely to. But saying that I wasn’t in that era to hate him personally for I was not persecuted nor my family killed in his name.


  2. Thanks for the link. :-) I still struggle with how I feel about that guy… and how I feel about how I feel about him. Guh. But I do think that the reason I fret about that feeling is that I’m trying to be a good person. If that’s the goal, I’m okay with it. But Jung is right… Clever chap.

  3. Smaaak Says:

    I like what you write and how you write it. In fact I enjoy reading your writing because you are very thoughtful, your opinions fair and thought out.


  4. hmm…. emotions can be tricky. And I have spent a lot of time trying to learn how NOT to let my life be run by my emotions.


  5. There are very few things I can honestly say I hate. I think mainly I hate that word -“Hate!” It has a connotation of something evil and vile and extremely distasteful and therefore, something to be avoided at all costs. I do like the explanation the Rabbi gave though about hating Hitler. I don’t look at it exactly as hating him, the person but rather the evil and vile things he stood for as who knows, perhaps to his family, those directly around him who believed as he did, he was a very decent type person. Kind of hard to put that in context though when thinking of what he did stand for though, isn’t it?
    There are a few people here and there that I don’t particularly care for and them I try my utmost to avoid, if it at all possible. But I wouldn’t want to go so far as to say that I really hate them, that they are an abomination or scourge of the earth or something like that. I read Single Cell’s post about her issues with the co-worker and I can relate to having a problem similar to hers -and it is hard to cope with people who make you feel those negative feelings and still try to be civilized when forced -sort of -into contact with them. For me -I guess it’s more of trying to separate the person from the feelings or actions and hate the latter two but not the person, not exactly anyway. I know -just more convoluted thoughts on this topic, huh?

  6. territerri Says:

    Dang! Life is so complicated! Yes, I feel guilty about my emotions. I give in too easily to sadness and bitterness. I don’t hate or even dislike easily, but when I experience the least bit of either, it makes me feel guilty. (Hello, my name is Terri, I’m a Catholic and I have guilt.)

    I find it almost impossible to express anger. I tend to suppress it in favor of burying my head in the sand. And then I feel… you guessed it.

    My head spins sometimes when I try to figure out what we are SUPPOSED to feel and I get horrendously frustrated when I can’t make myself feel what I think i’m supposed to.

    Okay… your next post, please… how not to let your feelings get the best of you!

  7. undividing Says:

    Very thought-provoking post Bud! So since all of these emotions are just part of being human, do you believe hating (or disliking) someone is a sin?
    I tend to resist anger (just as you mentioned, it can be hard to own as a woman!), and I’d also say guilt – I hate feeling like I’ve disappointed someone or done something wrong.


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