I hope you’ve all been well. I know for many of you today wraps up the first week of a new school year and I hope those first days have been joyful, and full of all the right feelings. “Right feelings?” you say. “Who’s to say feelings are right or wrong — they are feelings.” Isn’t it a thing to “feel all the feels” these days?
In a sense that’s true, feelings are subjective, and goodness knows I feel quite a range sometimes. Why declare feelings right or wrong? But in our society’s effort to validate and hear out the genuinely aggrieved, we’ve also muddied the waters. People have forgotten that feelings do not trump all other rationales. The microaggression nonsense is out of control. Plus, we’ve ignored our innate ability to largely control our feelings.
You want to feel kindness and love for somebody? You can’t, of course, just decide to manufacture warm feelings, but it’s still pretty darn easy to get them: you just treat them with kindness and love. Right feelings follow right actions. You cannot do something completely unselfish for someone with no intention of getting repaid and not feel just a little more esteem for that person. You cannot hug somebody tight and not feel a little extra warmth toward them. You can exert a lot of control over your feelings by being purposeful with your actions.
Doing right may require intention, humility, even submission, but I’ve never once heard someone say “Boy, you know I wish I wouldn’t have done the right thing.” Nor has anyone said, “I did the right thing but man I felt horrible about it. Doing right has just turned me into a self-centered, hateful person.” Implicitly we know overriding feelings and doing right positively impacts who we are, but it’s not a message we hear often enough.
The refrain “we just need to love each other” is bandied about constantly like it’s some kind of panacea for social unrest. But maybe we need to add the words “act like” in there. Maybe to change the culture we need to start acting like we love each other.
Not surprising Jesus spoke to this issue in his Sermon on the Mount. He said, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:46 NIV). A rough paraphrase might be: the lowest of the low in society manage to love those who love them. But what good is that? We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, and even our enemies.
So I leave you with this oft-quoted but always appropriate quote from C.S. Lewis: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did.” Mere Christianity.
Next time your children start pushing each other’s buttons why not ask them “What would it look like to love that sibling right now?” When they give you an honest answer, make them do it and see what happens. I often make my boys give each other hugs and look into each other’s eyes and say, “I love you.” It’s never once backfired. Next time you are frustrated with your spouse or even a friend, do something especially kind and loving. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what happens.
Have a great weekend friends, loving with actions and feeling all the right feels!
Love to YOU!