“I can’t believe I did that! What was I thinking!?”
“Why did I fall for him? How could I have not seen what a jerk he is!”
“Ugh! That business deal seemed like a can’t miss! It felt SO right, and now I’ve lost a ton of money!”
We have all run across many optical illusions. Our eyes seem to be playing a trick on us, where we see something different than is actually there. Once we continue to study the image a little more, we can actually see the same image in at least two different ways. Usually, an optical illusion doesn’t cause us a lot of pain. But emotional illusions? A different story.
Emotional illusions play tricks on our heart.
And often emotional illusions hurt – a lot. A pain in the heart is perhaps the worst kind of pain. Emotional illusions might be described as something that seems so right, feels so right, but in the end, doesn’t turn out right. Likely you’ve experienced a few along the way. In the moment, you were just so sure, so certain, your emotions were just so strong, and you acted on it. I mean, why not, right?
Emotional illusions might be based on a positive feeling, like a great relationship to jump into, or a no brainer of a decision to help you advance in some way. And oftentimes, emotional illusions may be based in strong negative emotions. Have you ever seen someone fire off an email or a social media post or even unleash a tirade on someone, with hurtful, powerful words washing over the scene like a tsunami? (I’m sure you’ve not had that experience personally, which is why I was wondering if you’ve seen it happen.) And then later, that person learns some new information, and they realize they acted too quickly. Gulp.
Emotional illusions can feel intensely positive or negative, so every one of us is susceptible on both fronts.
So how do you keep from being duped by emotional illusions and avoid heartaches?
1. Guard your heart.
There’s a passage of scripture in Proverbs 4:23 that says, “Guard your heart; it’s the wellspring of life.” No one can do it for you. You can’t guard a loved one’s heart. They can’t guard yours. It’s a personal responsibility deal, just like someone can’t do a workout at the gym for you.
2. Guard your heart by letting the moment pass.
See if it still feels like a good thing to act on tomorrow.
3. Guard your heart by learning from the past – yours or someone else’s.
Remember back to that time when you were just so sure your feelings were right, only to find out later…
4. Guard your heart by listening to wise counsel.
Who do you have in your life that wants the best for you, and won’t just say yes to whatever you want them to say yes to?
Let’s be clear – emotions are good. They are very good. God gave you emotions so you could experience joy, fulfillment, peace, and love – for crying out loud. Can you imagine a life without emotions? What an empty, listless life that would be. Even unpleasant emotions can be good. Disgust, for instance, can be a powerful motivator.
The trick is not to be tricked by your emotions. Pay attention to your emotions, and to your thoughts. If you never learn from your mistakes – or the mistakes of others – life will be just as painful as a life without emotions. Your thoughts are designed to work in tandem with your emotions, and it’s a very good idea to let the thoughts run the show. That way, the enjoyable emotions will be the fruit of the wise decisions you make. Making decisions by letting your emotions call the shots is a dangerous way to go because those pesky emotional illusions can trip you up.
Guard your heart. It’s the wellspring of life.
Rev. Greg Griffin is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and Forgiveness Coach in private practice in Marietta, GA. His specialty is relationship repair and rescue- helping partners, spouses, and parents and their adolescents. He’s also the author of Dungeon Times Survival Guide, and Vital Faith.