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    Authenticity and Emotions

    May 28, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    I‘ve spent some more time thinking over this concept of what I called divorcing authenticity from discipline. On the one hand, when it comes to, for instance, education, I think that love of the subject best compels us. On the other hand, I think it is human nature to shirk hard work. I have a child who I think will adore math, especially as that child matures, but I also know this child well enough to know that the second it gets hard the love will evaporate.

    And isn’t that what folks say happens in marriage? The second the union has to be fought for, the claim is made that all love {and therefore hope} has been lost, and, even worse, speculation is made that perhaps the love was never there to begin with.

    Can you imagine a mathematician? There he is in his lab or office, toiling over a new problem. Suddenly, he throws down his pencil and declares that he hates this problem, therefore he hates math, therefore he probably never loved math at all and he is quitting his job instantly and taking up the barista vacancy at Starbucks.

    And now we see why we don’t raise many mathematicians: we don’t raise many children who can discipline their emotions enough to relish both the difficulties as well as the ease and the triumph.

    Though I hope my children are compelled by the heart of the amateur, which is to say love of the subject, I also hope that they become mature, not ruled by their emotions, which is where my discipline comes in. Sometimes in life, we have to do things we don’t feel like doing, and there is nobility in fighting through our resistance and doing it in spite of our emotions.

    Which brings me to my Thought of the Day: There is more to being human than feeling.

    I know, I know. It’s been said before. We here at Afterthoughts are firm believers in repeating ancient wisdom rather than trying to invent our own.

    The reason why I was mulling over this simple thought is the idea that we often think negative emotions about something invalidate the authenticity of the action. So, for instance, if I am frantic and overwhelmed and also not feeling particularly passionate in my love for my husband, somehow this makes “inauthentic” the love note I place in his lunchbox that morning.

    But does it really?

    After all, I do love him. I vowed to love him, and I am determined to do so at all times, not just the very best of times. Is it disingenuous, then, to write a note saying I love him when we are in a less-than-best-of time?

    I don’t think so.

    When we say that our emotions are what determines whether something is real or not, whether something is genuine or not, what we are really saying is that emotions are the most human part about us. We are saying that such things as duty, logic, and wisdom are less-than-human, or less real. But emotions are not more human than the other facets of our being. This is a lie from culture, not a truth from Design.

    Which brings me back to the example from Wilson’s book which I quoted here and will repeat now:

    It was a bitter grief for Christ to drink the cup of God’s wrath, but that grief does not take away from His love for us; rather, it adds to it.

    If we say that our emotions must be completely in line with our actions in order for them to be authentic, we are, in a roundabout way, doubting the authenticity of Christ’s actions on the cross. For if He approached the cross with tears, how can we say it is real when we test our own actions by such a different standard?

    We can say it because somewhere inside ourselves we know that our standards are wrong.

    What is more real? The almost instantaneous infatuation of a fourteen-year-old girl and boy? Or the abiding love of a couple celebrating their sixtieth wedding anniversary?

    I suppose they are both real, but the former is indefinite. It could perhaps be the beginning of a lifetime together, but it is more likely a passing fancy. On the other hand, the latter have a history which cannot be denied. Their love has been tested and proven to be true.

    Our culture is upside down. We have elevated the lesser loves, which are close to being not loves at all, but more akin to lusts. And we have done this to the detriment of the better loves, which is to say the quality loves which bring about virtue in all its forms.

    So when we discipline ourselves to do our duty, we must not do so grudgingly, for then we do invalidate our actions. Let us rather live for even greater authenticity, which is to say a greater and better form of humanity, humanity in all its fullness, not thrown off balance by lusts and passions. Let us relish discipline, embrace the hard work, looking forward to the reward.

    In educating our children, we first model this, I think. My husband was a great model for me early on in our marriage, verbally expressing his love of the feeling of accomplishment after working hard at something. I began to realize there was something to what he said. So we help our children to celebrate their labors, enjoy the rewards at the end of something, and in so doing we teach them real authentic humanity, which is the balance of all things, mind, body, soul; emotions, logic, wisdom.

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Mystie May 29, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    “Let us relish discipline, embrace the hard work, looking forward to the reward.”

    There is a perfect motto for education right there!

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