A few months ago I blogged about The Temptation of Loneliness. Ever since that post I’ve had a growing awareness of how often we are tempted, whether by Satan or by our own habitual patterns, by emotions. We already know Satan creates imitations of every righteous thing, and when he can deceive us in such a elemental way he is already gotten us far on the path of sinning in the expression of these emotions. So how do we distinguish between true emotions and imitation emotions?
True emotions can be a strength or weakness depending on usage (a sign of the respect Heavenly Father has for our agency). Imitation emotions can never be used as strengths, only weaknesses.
In the Garden of Eden, Heavenly Father placed enmity between Satan and the woman, in this instance it is a good thing. President Benson tell us that “the central feature of pride is enmity – enmity toward god and enmity toward our fellowmen.” (Beware of Pride, May 1989) In that example it is bad. Hate is never a healthy emotion and harms the carrier far more than then the supposed target.
When used righteously, true emotions lead to obedience and action, imitation emotions lead to sin.
Guilt is a productive emotion, it acts like the bumpers do when you take your child bowling. It may hurt to hit the bumper, but the impact pushes us back into the lane to keep us rolling toward our destination. When we feel guilt it leads to repentance, change and greater understanding of the doctrine or principle. Shame is an emotion that entices us to hide our mistakes from others, keeping us from the healing power of repentance and inhibits obedience and encourages deception.
True emotion build righteous relationships, imitation emotions prevent or destroy them.
True love, including but not limited to the romantic kind, motivates us to act in ways that are best for the person we love with a long term perspective. When we truly love someone we do not succumb to relieving short term discomfort, whether our own or that of the person we love, at the expense of long term success. Lust selfishly satisfies our immediate need for comfort without concern for the long term consequences.
Here are a few examples of true emotions vs imitation emotions for you to ponder:
- Love vs Lust
- Enmity vs Hate
- Concern vs Worry
- Guilt vs Shame
The point of these examples is not to get caught up in linguistic semantics, but to do our best to label eternal emotions to the best ability we have in mortality. Learning to identify the differences, or sources, of the emotions we feel and are tempted with gives our eternal selves greater control over our mortal state. As we do so, we will not become calculating or unfeeling, but someone with even greater expression and empathy. We learn to identify and resist temptation and sin earlier, long before it is manifest as a temptation of a specific application of sin. In short, we become even more Christlike as we learn to feel emotions as He felt.