Bible Topics In The Christian Library
Chapter 8
Managing Our Feelings

Feelings are a vital part of the mind, helping to arouse the body to action. A wise man will know how and when to express them.

To every thing there is a season a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing a time to love, and a time to hate (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4, 5, 8; KJV). A wise man will also know how and when to restrain them. Self-control is a fundamental part of living wisely; and, Solomon said, without it a man is weak and defenseless. A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls (Proverbs 25:28; RSV). Happiness/unhappiness involves feelings of joy and pleasure, sorrow and pain, which are related to the state of the soul. Hope and fear refer to anticipated happiness/unhappiness. Pride and humility, anger, jealousy and envy all involve forms of love and hate.

The concept of love (like wisdom) has a very deep meaning. Indeed it appears that love is even greater than wisdom, for the Lord himself is said to personify love (See 1 John 4:8, 16). Thus, it would require an entire book to even attempt to do justice to this great concept. Love involves a force that works with wisdom to manifest productive behavior. Solomon urged that we cultivate our loves and hates carefully and wisely. Loving and hating by instinct, reflex, and "chemistry" are the ways of fools. Loving and hating with hypocrisy are the ways of the wicked. As with every kind of force, love should be restrained, and directed properly; although Solomon said that prolonged restraint is undesirable:

Open rebuke is better than secret love (Proverbs 27:5; KJV).
Love of Self

Love of self is a desirable quality. We have worth—great worth. The value of one human soul exceeds that of all the wealth of the world. Remember, Jesus said,

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26; KJV). However, excessive self-love is a vice. We call it pride and arrogance. It includes an emotional component called a haughty spirit which generates aggressiveness, rashness, and wantonness that leads to strife and trouble. It also includes an intellectual component-excessive self-esteem—which is a value judgment about self-worth that reflects a false perception of a man’s strengths and weaknesses. Being a false perception, it inevitably leads to conflicts with reality. Arrogance typically includes belittling other people, causing a man to behave unjustly by overstepping proper bounds and restrictions. When people discover it they naturally resent it, and oppose its unfairness. Solomon said this about pride: God himself meets the arrogant with arrogance (Proverbs 3:34; NEB).

When pride comes, then comes disgrace (Proverbs 11:2; RSV).

Better a man of low rank, who works for himself, than he who assumes honor, yet has nothing to eat (Proverbs 12:9; AAT).

The Lord will destroy the house of the proud (Proverbs 15:25; KJV).

Everyone proud of heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured he will not go unpunished (Proverbs 16:5; MLB).

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18; KJV).

he that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction (Proverbs 17:19; KJV).

Before destruction the heart of man is haughty (Proverbs 18:12; KJV).

Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him (Proverbs 26:12; KJV).

He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife (Proverbs 28:25; KJV).

A man's pride shall bring him low (Proverbs 29:23; KJV).

And Augur said, If you have foolishly been proud or presumptuous, put your hand on your mouth (Proverbs 30:32; NAB). The scoffer appears to be a special kind of proud man. He is another type of fool: one who not only rejects knowledge, but also actively and openly opposes it. How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing (Proverbs 1:22; RSV).

A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain (Proverbs 14:6; RSV).

"Scoffer" is the name of the proud, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride (Proverbs 21:24; RSV).

Scoffers are especially troublesome and dangerous. Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease (Proverbs 22:10; KJV).

the scorner is an abomination to men (Proverbs 24:9; KJV).

Scoffers set a city in a flame (Proverbs 29:8; ASV).

However, as in dealing with ordinary fools, unless a man is in a position of authority, it is not advisable to contend with scoffers. He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse (RSV). Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee (KJV) (Proverbs 9:7, 8).

a scoffer does not listen to rebuke (Proverbs 13:1; RSV).

A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise (Proverbs 15:12; RSV).

Pride is probably the most deadly vice of the mind. It appears to be a root cause of rebellion against the Lord. A high look, and a proud heart, even the lamp of the wicked is sin (Proverbs 21:4; RV). Pride (the "lamp of the wicked") leads a man away from the paths of righteousness. Satan—that powerful invisible dragon who sent an army, a bolt of lightning, and a violent wind (probably a tornado) against all that Job possessed—was described by the Lord as, king over all the children of pride (Job 41:34; RSV). When Paul wrote Timothy, warning him against exalting a man prematurely, he said: pride might turn his head and then he might be condemned as the devil was condemned (1 Timothy 3:6; JB). Humility involves the right kind of self-love; and it is a vital quality of the mind if a man is to be wise and righteous. Humility includes an accurate self-perception, a realistic and honest appraisal of our strengths and weaknesses, and an appreciation for our relative insignificance in this vast universe. But humility goes beyond simple self-perception. It also includes a subdued, submissive, and gentle spirit reflecting self-control of feelings (not cowardice)—a quality of maturity that Jesus praised, saying that kind of spirit will inherit both heaven and earth. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their's is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3; KJV).

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5; KJV).

An honest self-concept, a gentle spirit, and an attitude of submission are all qualities of humility that make for a willingness to elevate others over ourselves for a higher good. A humble spirit reflects a wise mind; and, in gratitude, others will reward and honor the humble man as he becomes known. Solomon said this about humility: to the humble he [the Lord] shows favor (Proverbs 3:34; RSV).

with the humble is wisdom (Proverbs 11:2; RSV).

before honour is humility (Proverbs 15:33; KJV).

Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud (Proverbs 16:19; KJV).

before honour is humility (Proverbs 18:12; KJV).

The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord is riches, and honour, and life (Proverbs 22:4; RV).

To eat honey in abundance is not good, nor is searching out their own honour an honourable thing (Proverbs 25:27; RHM).

Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips (Proverbs 27:2; KJV).

he that is of a lowly spirit shall obtain honor (Proverbs 29:23; ASV).

the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit (Ecclesiastes 7:8; KJV).

Humility does not involve timidity or cowardice. Jesus was certainly not timid, and Paul was no coward. For example, Paul once wrote, I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold to you when I am away!—I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of acting in worldly fashion (2 Corinthians 10:1, 2; RSV). There is danger in receiving more than we are prepared to receive. Remember, Paul said that knowledge puffs up; and both Solomon and Agur said that wealth brings pride. Agur added what may be called "heady success." Here are Solomon’s words: The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who is intelligent sees through him (Proverbs 28:11; NAB).

Two things have I asked of thee; deny me them not before I die: remove far from me falsehood and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me: lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is Jehovah? or lest I be poor, and steal, and use profanely the name of my God (Proverbs 30:7-9; ASV).

Under three things the earth trembles; under four it cannot bear up: a slave when he becomes king, and a fool when he is filled with food; an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and a maid when she succeeds her mistress (Proverbs 30:21-23; RSV).

And here is what Agur said: The man says to Ithiel, to Ithiel and Ucal (RSV): For I am more like a beast than any man, I have not power of reasoning like a man: I have not got wisdom by teaching, so that I might have knowledge of the Holy One (BAS). Tell me, Who has ascended up into heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has bound the waters in a handkerchief! Who has established all the borders of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son's name, if you can tell? (LAM) (Proverbs 30:14).

There are three things beyond my comprehension, four indeed, that I do not understand: the way of an eagle through the skies, the way of a snake over the rock, the way of a ship in mid-ocean, the way of a man with a girl (Proverbs 30:18, 19; JB).

Agur's meaning is unclear to me, but I suggest the following: He is greatly humbled by his terrible ignorance; for he cannot know the Lord and his Son who created all things, nor can he understand all of the complexity of even the simplest ordinary things. Perhaps the lesson, then, is that the facts of reality should be enough to keep each of us humble. No matter how much we may learn, we still know so little. Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth (Proverbs 27:1; KJV). Paul wrote in like manner to discourage us from insisting on understanding the deepest mysteries. Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?" (that is, to bring Christ down) or "Who will descend into the abyss?" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead) (Romans 10:6, 7; RSV). Humility appears to be a balance between two extremes: pride, which involves excessive self-love, and a broken spirit, which involves a loss of self-love. A broken spirit can be a tragic disease of the soul. A man's spirit will endure sickness; but a broken spirit who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14; RSV). Not only can a broken spirit paralyze the mind, but it can also afflict the body. A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones (Proverbs 17:22; KJV). There appears to be only one circumstance when a broken spirit is desirable, and that is during penance following guilt, when self-mortification is necessary. After David's great sin, he asked the Lord's forgiveness. That prayer was recorded in one of the Psalms where he said, The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Psalms 51:17; RSV). Normally, however, a broken spirit is not a healthy reaction. But like many aspects of this troubled life, it is an ever-present threat; and all of the things that cause sorrow predispose us to it. A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken (Proverbs 15:13; KJV). And the loss of hope is a major contributor to a broken spirit. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12; KJV). Remember the tragedy Solomon spoke about that broke a man's spirit? There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture; and he is a father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil, which he may carry away in his hand. This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go; and what gain has he that he toiled for the wind, and spent all his days in darkness and grief, in much vexation and sickness and resentment? (Ecclesiastes 5:13-17; RSV). Remember, too, that excessive punishment can break the spirit. It takes not only love and wisdom, but also courage to apply just punishment, because the application of punishment hurts its administrator as well as its recipient. When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church, it contained many criticisms against them. In his second letter, he revealed the sorrow he felt as he wrote that first letter: For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I come I might not be pained by those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you (2 Corinthians 2:2-4; RSV). Paul knew that excessive or unjust punishment can break the spirit, because to another church he said: Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged (Colossians 3:21; RSV). Therefore, when Paul wrote the Corinthian church later, he gave these instructions regarding a man that he had rebuked: But if any one has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to you all. For such a one this punishment by the majority is enough; so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him (2 Corinthians 2:5-8; RSV). There is another threat. Perfectionism results in never-ending feelings of dissatisfaction, which can destroy self-esteem. Perhaps this is included in the meaning of these words: Be not righteous over much, and do not make yourself overwise; why should you destroy yourself! (Ecclesiastes 7:16; RSV). But Solomon also warned against too much tolerance. Neither be thou over-faulty amongst the multitude; neither play the fool; wherefore shouldest thou die before thy time? (Ecclesiastes 7:17; SPRL). In sum: Pride involves an excessive and unjust love of self. A broken spirit involves an excessive loss of self-love. Humility appears to be a healthy balance of mind involving a realistic and just evaluation of oneself. Both Moses and Jesus said: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39; KJV).

Anger appears to be a type of hatred. It is an emotion of displeasure, and is a natural reaction to being offended. There is no sin in becoming angry; although uncontrolled anger, such as rage, is wrong. The Bible mentions many times the wrath of God. For example, the prophet Zephaniah said,

"Therefore wait for me," says the Lord, "for the day when I arise as a witness. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them in indignation, all the heat of my anger; for in the fire of my jealous wrath all the earth shall be consumed" (Zephaniah 3:8; RSV). But whether justified or not, our anger rarely motivates constructive or creative enterprises. It typically fuels punishment and destructiveness. James said: Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God (James 1:19, 20; RSV). Anger can be painfully violent. Wise men will seek ways to turn it away. The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it (Proverbs 16:14; KJV).

Wrath is cruel, and anger is overwhelming (Proverbs 27:4; ASV).

wise men turn away wrath (Proverbs 29:8; KJV).

Solomon said the best defense against wrath, once aroused, is to calm it down, perhaps with a gentle word, or perhaps by providing compensation privately for the offense that provoked it. A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1; KJV).

A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath (Proverbs 21:14; KJV).

Many times daily we experience irritations and frustrations. The wise keep control of their emotions, but there are those who indulge themselves in ventilating their wrath. They are fools, easily provoked, who carry anger to excess. It becomes an addiction. They create much trouble for themselves and for others. Those who try to correct them waste their time. Solomon also warned others against fraternizing with them lest they, too, succumb to the vice. Here are his words: A fool shows instantly that he is angry (Proverbs 12:16; MOFFAIT).

He who is quick tempered acts foolishly (Proverbs 14:17; MLB).

he who has a hasty temper exalts folly (Proverbs 14:29; RSV).

A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again (Proverbs 19:19; KJV).

Make no friendship with a man that is given to anger; and with a wrathful man thou shalt not go: lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul (Proverbs 22:24, 25; ASV).

anger resteth in the bosom of fools (Ecclesiastes 7:9; KJV).

These men are always fomenting trouble and strife. A hot tempered man stirs up strife (Proverbs 15:18; RSV).

A man prone to anger provokes a quarrel and a hot-head is always doing wrong (Proverbs 29:22; NEB).

The right use of anger takes great self-control. Understanding helps a man be slow in developing it. For example, infants and young children quickly become angry at things because they do not understand the basic laws of nature; whereas adults rarely become angry at things. Wise men also understand the basic nature of people, and it is a mark of distinction for them to overlook an offense. Solomon advised: He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding (Proverbs 14:29; KJV).

He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city (Proverbs 16:32; KJV).

The discretion of a man maketh him slow to anger; and it is his glory to pass over transgression (Proverbs 19:11; RV).

Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry (Ecclesiastes 7:9; KJV).

And Paul warned against harboring anger. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26; RSV). In sum: Anger is a natural defense reaction which may or may not be justified. Like an explosive device, it should be carefully controlled.
Jealousy and Envy

Jealousy and envy appear to be compound emotions involving both anger and love. Jealousy is a desirable emotion when used to guard lawful relationships. In the Bible, the Lord is often said to be jealous of his people. Husbands are justly jealous of their wives and children when someone or something threatens the relationship. Jealousy can be the most fierce emotion; for Solomon said,

Wrath is cruel, and anger is overwhelming; but who is able to stand before jealousy (Proverbs 27:4; ASV).

jealousy is cruel as the grave (Song of Solomon 8:6; RSV).

When Solomon warned about adultery, he said, He who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself. Wounds and dishonor will he get, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. He will accept no compensation nor be appeased though you multiply gifts (Proverbs 6:32-35; RSV). Envy is undesirable since it involves unjustified anger and love. Solomon especially warned against envying the wicked who may appear successful and happy. Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways (Proverbs 3:31; KJV).

Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long (Proverbs 23:17; KJV).

Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them (Proverbs 24:1; KJV).

Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked (Proverbs 24:19; KJV).

Envy is an unhealthy state of mind that can afflict the body like a deadly disease. A wise man will keep it out of his heart. The life of the body is a tranquil heart, but envy is a cancer in the bones (Proverbs 14:30; JB). In sum: Jealousy should arouse a man when he needs to defend lawful relationships. Envy is never justified.

Copyright 1997 by Walter L. Porter may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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