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Emotions And Truth: Spiritual Exercise 03/09/20

Facing Our Immortality Support Group

Time: 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm MDT (8:30 pm to 10:00 pm EDT)

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  2. Online at uberconference.com/facingourimmortality

Opening Prayer:

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Emotions and Truth

Before the first-ever State visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Great Britain in September of 2010, the British media voiced opposition to the visit with increasing hostility, indirectly encouraging petition protests and civil dissent among the people. Pope Benedict had been known as Ratzinger the Rottweiler during his tenure as Head of the Congregation for Faith and Doctrine in the Vatican, because of his firm stand on the traditional teachings of the Church. Rottweilers, of course, summon all sorts of connotations in the minds of ordinary people: stubborn, dominant, aggressive, territorial, bullying, strong, loyal, etc. All together off-putting to say the least.

An amazing thing happened though once the media, and the country, came into direct contact with the man they had conceptualized and labeled a Rottweiler. He “turned out to be a shy, warm and frail 83-year-old who perked up every time his security detail allowed him to greet people, especially youngsters and his own generation.” Outspoken journalists who had vehemently opposed the visit were completely won over by the Pope and gushed: “Ratzinger the rottweiler transformed into Benny the bunny,” “We all want to cuddle up to him and get him to bless our babies.” (AFP News Wires, Sept. 2010) The real man won out over the fabricated image that had triggered such powerful emotions nationwide.

This illustrates an area that is particularly dangerous today. It is the tendency to conflate strong emotion with the truth. If I feel strongly about something, it must be true. The trend toward gauging truth by how one feels or has been made to feel about something and not by an objective consideration of facts or evidence produces all sorts of crazy, irrational judgments, and behavior, which once would have been self-evident but today seem lost on those formed under a hierarchy of values that places feelings at the top. Feelings become more important than truth or considerations of right and wrong. Various elements of society are keenly aware of this and intentionally manipulate people by deliberately inciting certain emotions. They understand emotions can be very contagious, and if they can move even a small group toward a certain goal, it will spread incredibly quickly.

A prominent example of this is found in the way emotion was used to change people’s views of and opinions regarding abortion. Before it’s legalization in the US in December of 1971, any doctor who practiced such procedures was ostracized by the mainstream medical community. Abortion was known, at the level of conscience, universally, to be the destruction of a human baby. The affirmation of science (which is there), was not needed. The issue of the humanity of the baby was not in question. Yet, that became lost because of a genius strategy on the part of those working to legalize it.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who was one of these key players and who later converted to Catholicism and worked the rest of his life to undo the legalization of abortion which he had fostered, explained it this way. He said they used three main tactics in their work and the third tactic was by far the one that accelerated them to their goal the fastest.

The first tactic was to falsify statistics. So, they simply inflated the numbers for back-alley abortions to make it seem that this was a national crisis that had to be addressed. Second, they set out to discredit the Catholic Church as patriarchal, sexist and old-fashioned because they knew that is where their main opposition would come from. But the third, and most masterful strategy, according to Nathanson, was to couch abortion in terms of women’s rights. Once you talked about abortion as a woman’s right, you could easily incite indignation if any opposition to a “woman’s right to choose” was expressed. Rational debate was no longer possible because once the emotions were running high, thinking things through clearly and calmly debating them, failed. Feelings ruled out facts. And the immediate stance of those emotionally swayed to favor abortion became accusatory: You are waging a war on women! You are violating our freedom and our right to choose what to do with our own bodies, etc. It became all about “me” and not about the little life entrusted so intimately to the woman.

Dr. Nathanson himself was finally converted when he deliberately filmed, via ultrasound, an abortion. The image of the little baby trying to escape from the instruments dismembering him, the shocking encounter with the truth of what he was doing, was enough to make him stop on the spot and to spend the rest of his life trying to make restitution for what he had done.

The crucial point to understand is, discovering truth is not the goal of the emotions. They were not given to us for that purpose. Our intellect and our powers of reason and understanding were given to us for that purpose. Our emotions are meant to be informed by and to serve the truth as forces that move us to the good or away from evil. And until that right order is re-established in each of us, we will continue to see an increase in chaos and the culture of death around us.

Emotions are powerful forces that are a deep part of what makes us human. They can move us in ways that are strong and decisive, as when we need to take action in the face of injustice or danger, but also in ways that are delicate and sensitive as when we need to attend to a small child in distress. In the right order, emotions help us to go beyond ourselves in deeds, behavior, and relationships for the sake of a greater good. However, in their disorder, they can overpower reason and practical wisdom. They can blind us to the truth and take on a life of their own which manifests in excess and the domination of self-interest or self-absorption over all else.

Questions For Reflection (after 5-10 minutes of silence):

  1. Am I aware of what kinds of things trigger me emotionally?
  2. Which emotions are most easily triggered in me? Anger? Sympathy? Love? Compassion? Sadness? Joy? Fear? Disgust? Trust? Anxiety? Etc.
  3. Do I sometimes make decisions with my emotions? Do I have a habit of acting impulsively from emotion?
  4. In my life experience, what have been some of the effects of making decisions with my emotions? What would I do differently now?

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