Emotion vs. reason

“We only know rights, we’ve forgotten our duties.” Word from Fr. Antoine Bodar in an interview about the protests that disturbed Mass in ‘s-Hertogenbosch last Sunday. His words resound with me and some thoughts I’ve been having when I wonder, in my own pseudo-psychological way, about how the current situation came about. Why does a fairly simple disagreement result in a situation which is essentially criminal?

There are a few factors to this, but what strikes me most is the highly emotional response from, in this case, homosexual rights supporters. An emotional response to something which seems to affect someone so personally is only natural and therefore very understandable. It is in many ways instinctual: we feel threatened so we lash out in defense. We do it when we are afraid, angry, insulted, but also when we’re happy – impulsive actions in the rush of the moment.

But as civilised and reasonable developed people, we may pride ourselves on the fact that we are not governed by instincts alone. At some point, in order to reach at the very least a certain level of understanding (not even agreement yet), we must transcend the purely emotional and enter into a reasoned and objective debate about the issue in question.

In our modern society, where the only certainty is that there are no certainties, an emotional response is encouraged. A subjective attitude towards reality is very compatible with emotion, after all. But the second step towards the objective and reasoned debate, is no longer made by the public at large. Emotion has now become the final stop, even the ‘objective’ approach. I saw it personally on Sunday and we may all read it in the various media that report on the situation in the diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Today I read from a pro-homosexual rights source that the diocese had come about and now allows homosexuals to receive Communion. An objective listener would have known that the diocese has said that throughout this crisis. Nothing has changed, but the latest statements only seem new because it had not managed to reach the ears of the protesters before. The blindness of subjective emotion blocked it.

In many ways this is a regression towards immaturity. As children we learn to transcend the emotional response and find solutions through objective approaches. As adults we know to curtail our emotions when necessary in order to not worsen a given problematic situation. But in modern society, which teaches that we all have our own reality, that there are no certainties but our own, often no longer knows how to transcend the emotion. After all, if I feel something, the reasoning goes, it is my own valid reality. The emotional becomes the objective approach for many.

The Church teaches that there is an objective Truth, independent from our emotions. It transcends us, so in order to know and understand It, we must in turn transcend our emotions. to come closer to the Truth that is Jesus Christ. We shouldn’t ignore our emotions by any means, but we must give them their proper place. That is ultimately the way to reach understanding and, perhaps, acceptance.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s