Educating our emotions and passions
IF we are truly serious with our faith, then we have to realize that our faith should not just be an intellectual affair, lived and pursued only in the spiritual world of good intentions and right doctrine. It has to involve a basic element of our humanity, and that is our feelings, our emotions and passions.
Our Catechism tells us that our emotions and passions are “movements of the sensitive appetite that incline us to act or not to act in regard to something felt or imagined to be good or evil.” (1763)
As such, we can say that our emotions and passions play an important and crucial role in our life. And that’s why we have to take pains in forming them well. We just cannot be complacent with this responsibility.
In fact, the Catechism tells us that our emotions and passions are “natural components of the human psyche; they form the passageway and ensure the connection between the life of the senses and the life of mind.” (1764)
Our emotions and passions therefore serve as a link between our body and soul. They are where we materialize what is spiritual in us, and spiritualize what is material in us. As such, they create a rich texture in our lives. They create the consistency proper to us as a person and as a child of God. They also help to give focus on our judgments, modulate our will, and add sensitivity to our reasoning.
In other words, they play a decisive role in achieving a happy and fully human life. They contribute to achieving the full potentials of our humanity. But given the wounded condition of man, our emotions and passions need to be purified and thoroughly educated.
They should not be allowed to just develop at the instance of our hormones and instincts, for example, and the many other blind or short-sighted impulses and trends in our social, cultural, economic, or political environment. They need to be reined in, to be
guided and given direction.
Obviously, the guiding principle should be our faith, hope and charity which truly define us as a person and a child of God. In other words, our faith, hope and charity tell us who we really are, what the purpose of our life here on earth is, how our freedom should be sourced and oriented, etc. They provide us the moral principles that should guide the way we use our emotions and passions.
The common problem we have in this regard is that many people are not clear about where we can have the ultimate source of knowledge and wisdom about ourselves. Some rely on some ideologies, fashions and trends. Others just seem drift to wherever the world currents would take them.
Of course, given our wounded human condition, to educate our emotions and passions properly we need to ask for grace and rely more on the supernatural means without belittling in any way all the human means we can avail of.
We have to pray, offer sacrifices, avail of the sacraments, have devotion to Our Lady and the saints. Then we truly have to study a lot and go through the process of developing virtues.
This is how our emotions and passions help us in achieving an interior freedom in all our actuations. In this way, our emotions and passions get purified and are elevated to the spiritual and supernatural level.
This is also how our emotions and passions would know what is truly important and necessary in life, what brings us to our eternal joy. This is how they avoid getting stranded in our merely bodily and worldly conditions.