Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Our Feelings...Real, but Reality?

I had a dream last night, in which I was telling someone (maybe myself?) that love is about actions, not feelings.  In the dream, I said, "How can we base our most important relationships on something as unpredictable as our feelings, which can be affected by lame things, like blisters on our feet?"

It reminded me of something that Grace said to me last week.  "Our feelings are a poor representation of reality"  It's true. Our feelings are real, but they do not always accurately represent reality. 

Someone said to me once, in essence, that when I did not change my point of view about certain issues to match his, I was disrespecting him.  I told the person that I meant no disrespect, but he said, "It FEELS that way."  And that was the end of the matter for him.  He was angry and resentful and hurt, and I was in an impossible situation. I couldn't, with any intergrity, change my opinion because I strongly believed what I thought.  I was speaking respectfully, and it was no more disrespectful for me to disagree with his opinion than it was for him to disagree with mine. I didn't feel disrespected by his stance that saw me as wrong. 

There was no point in discussing it anymore, as truth was no longer the issue.  I could claim, until I was exhausted from my efforts, that I was not disrespecting him, but he had chosen to believe that his feelings reflected truth, even though they didn't.  His feelings more likely reflected his insecurity, his anger issues, his pride...but not the truth.

This concept, that feelings don't necessarily represent reality, is one that Grace & I often have to remind ourselves and each other of.  I may feel alone, but am I really?  I may feel unloved, unappreciated, ugly or dumb, but is any of this actually true?  If we truly believe that God is in our lives, we are never alone, never unloved, never unappreciated, certainly not ugly or dumb. 

One of the biggest messages that Grace & I both took away from Burke camp, which is a church camp in Burke, N.Y that we go to every year in July, is the idea of practicing the constant presence of God in our lives.  He is with us always, in us forever, but are we aware of Him?  Practicing the Presence of God is a wonderful little work by Brother Lawrence, a simple, Catholic layman in a monastery in Paris, in the 1600's. His passion for God and steady dedication to continual prayer in the course of his daily tasks and duties are an inspiration that has reached through the centuries to grasp my daughter and I, inviting us to a more intimate, personal, constant relationship with God.  It is within this deeper relationship that we are finding freedom from the dominion of our emotions. 

The thing is, when we recognize that what we think our emotions are telling us may not be true, we are then free to find out what our feelings really are telling us.  Because they are telling us something.  If my friend from earlier has questioned himself rather than accuse me, he might have discovered what was at the root of his hurt and anger.  Such discoveries can result in growth, healing and closer, deeper relationships.  Instead, he eventually ended our relationship, certain that my refusal to be dominated, intimidated or guilted into being anything other than myself, indicated a disrespect for him that led him to some very disrespectful, shameful behavior.  Yes, our feelings are real.  They simply do not always reflect reality. The people in our lives are precious, too precious to lose to a lie. 

Just a thought.

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