It wasn’t a formal survey, by the way. It’s just that when I asked 25 friends, 22½ of them agreed.
(So, to be clear, that survey part was a little joke.)
It seems that this belief is seen as true especially for those who have been influenced by so-called “Biblical counseling,” even if they don’t know they’ve been influenced by it. That would be the majority of people I speak with.
My own experience with this teaching
When we moved to Greenville, South Carolina, in 2005, I longed for some advice on how to help a family member suffering from severe discouragement (or depression, I wasn’t sure which and didn’t know if there was a difference). I had suggested to him that the things that discouraged him were in the past and couldn’t he put it all behind him and move forward and just be happy because of all the good things in his life, which were significant.
Yeah, no. I had a lot to learn.
But I was glad to be moving to the “Christian” land of Greenville, SC, from the spiritually barren wasteland of upstate New York. I had heard about a man who was the head of the counseling department of a local Christian university, that he was clever, funny, and a really good teacher, so I thought he would probably have some good advice for me when it came to helping this family member.
So I wrote to him asking for advice about how to help a family member suffering from what seemed to be depression.
He responded to me along these lines: “Your [family member] should be joyful because the Bible commands us to be joyful. Depression/discouragement is a sin and if he isn’t joyful he is living in disobedience.”
I remember as I read that email, my face screwed up and I muttered, “What kind of stupid advice is that?”
I wrote him back, protesting that joy can’t just be manufactured on demand, by a decision, but his reply insisted that to be otherwise was to be living in disobedience. And that was the end of our correspondence. I didn’t tell my family member about it at that time (and not till years later), because I was sure it would cause his depression to spiral down even further.
The Biblical basis for this teaching
In essence, that counseling teacher was saying that “reason”—or as some people label it, the “mind” (informed by certain Bible verses and their specific teaching of the written Word of God)—should hold sway over “emotions”—or as some people label it, the “heart.”
And in the Western evangelical world especially, it seems to be an unquestioned premise for most that the “mind” is more reliable than the “heart.” It’s common in evangelical circles to use two specific Bible verses to support this line of thinking.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
See? The mind can be renewed (by the written Word of God, they will say), leading to transformation.
And Jeremiah 17:9:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
See? No more need be said about the heart, right?
So the conclusion is, you “can’t trust your emotions,” and you need to be led by your reason. Because apparently reason is very trustworthy, and the heart is obviously a terrible mess.
And some women even believe that men in general are more capable of living in harmony with God’s will than they (women) are, because “women are more ruled by our emotions,” and “men are more level-headed.”
But is it true?
I’ve come up against this in conversation with women a number of times. They might be talking along and say something like, “And of course I don’t want to live by my emotions, so . . .’ and eventually I might have the opportunity to ask, “What did you mean by that?’
“That part where you said you didn’t want to live by your emotions. What did you mean by it?’
Note: When I posted this blog on Facebook, one of the commenters mentioned that when we get emotional, that might be an indication to some that we have “idols.” In response, I linked to another blog post there and thought it might be good to do it here as well. It’s “Rethinking the idol factory: challenging the ‘idol’ construct as the explanation for all sin in the lives of Christians,” here.
Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.