Emotions are tricky creatures. Some of us allow ourselves to be governed by them. If you were like me, emotions were abominations meant to be suppressed and denied. And if you were like me, “Vulcan” and “Android” have been frequent nicknames throughout your lifetime.
However throughout my journey I’ve come to learn that virtually everything we’ve been taught about emotions are wrong. So wrong in fact that even legendary Jedi Masters have been erroneous.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
Master Yoda. Little heart, oh bless your… But with so much misinformation in the world (and galaxies far far away), who can blame him? The truth is that emotions are signals meant to guide us, not rule us. Emotions in and of themselves are neither good nor evil. In fact, many positive results can manifest from emotions we often classify as “negative.”
Don’t believe me? You will.
We’re taught to believe that to be strong and courageous is to be fearless and that simply couldn’t be further from the truth. In actual fact, it is the absence of fear that is the root of so much malice and misery.
Too many people today act without fear of consequence. Sometimes it can be speaking without thinking, other times it can be getting behind the wheel of a vehicle while intoxicated. You should possess a healthy amount of fear. Fear makes you cautious, fear keeps you safe. Fear reminds you that a split-second decision can have lifelong consequences. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.
Anger is another emotion that is plagued with negative connotations. After all, it is anger that’s often blamed for one losing their temper, being verbally abusive, or even violent. We blame anger for making Hydes out of Jekylls. We all know what happens to Dr. Bruce Banner when he gets angry.
Anger functions as the internal fire alarm that screams DANGER WILL ROBINSON when business gets real. Anger informs you when you or someone else is being mistreated or violated. It fires us up to take action if it needs to be taken. Being angry does not necessitate being impulsive or reckless.
Being irate is a sign that you need to think the issue through calmly and thoroughly because said situation just got intense. Many people often believe that not being upset or offended is a virtue. If you witness a person of color being discriminated against and you aren’t fired up to fight for justice, then your calm apathy speaks volumes about you. And none of it is complimentary.
Hatred also gets a bad rep which is a shame because it is an extraordinary motivator. Much like love, hate can fuel someone up to perform monumental feats as Kill Bill, The Count of Monte Cristo, and other revenge sagas illustrate.
It makes sense given that love and hate are two sides of the same proverbial coin. If you have compassion for your fellow man, you should hate human suffering. If you love your fellow man, you should hate the idea of seeing them live in abject poverty. Said hatred should motivate you to donate and/or volunteer for charities.
While it is true that you cannot allow hatred to consume you, the emotion in and of itself isn’t so much an issue. What you hate, why you hate, and choosing how to act or not act on it is what’s truly important.
Jealousy is another emotion that is often deemed evil for obvious reasons. After all, the green-eyed spirit makes monsters of us all; especially when loquacious mirrors inform you that your stepdaughter is the fairest one of all. Much like anger, jealousy is an internal alarm that something is seriously wrong and in dire need of being addressed.
A few years back two friends of mine were being blessed with opportunities after opportunities. While I was genuinely happy for them, I continued to feel pangs of insecurity and jealousy. My friends couldn’t be kinder and finer people so I knew they obviously weren’t the source. Something else was seriously wrong. It took some soul searching and reflection but I eventually realized that the jealousy stemmed from me being mistreated and taken for granted in other areas of my life. Suffice it to say once those areas were addressed, the jealousy and insecurity dissipated and soon thereafter I began receiving blessings and opportunities of my own.
Nice =/= Good
While this technically isn’t a specific emotion per se, it does tie into the discussion of fallacious thinking where emotions are concerned. More than that, it’s imperative that this discussion takes place. At minimum, it’s simply a conflation of similar terms but without serious examination and thought, said thinking can be dangerous.
Nice is defined as pleasant, agreeable, delightful, satisfying. Good (at least in the context of this discussion) is defined as that which is morally right. Virtue, integrity, morality, truth.
You don’t have to necessarily be nice to be good. More than that, you don’t have to be good to be nice. In fact, often the most sinister and malicious individuals are the nicest.
We often use the words nice and good interchangeably. I know this firsthand because I’ve been guilty of it in the past. However reading this article here (http://www.socialjusticeleague.net/2012/04/the-revolution-will-not-be-polite-the-issue-of-nice-versus-good/) made me realize that at minimum it’s simply a conflation of similar terms. But without serious examination and reflection, said erroneous thinking can make us vulnerable to potential predators.
“Social justice is about destroying systematic marginalization and privilege. Wishing to live in a more just, more equal world is simply not the same thing as wishing to live in a “nicer” world. I am not suggesting niceness is bad or that we should not behave in a nice way towards others if we want to! I also do not equate niceness with cooperation or collaboration with others. Here’s all I am saying: the conflation of ethical or just conduct (goodness), and polite conduct (niceness) is a big problem.
Plenty of oppressive bullshit goes down under the guise of nice. Every day, nice, caring, friendly people try to take our bodily autonomy away from us (women, queers, trans people, nonbinaries, fat people, POC…you name it, they just don’t think we know what’s good for us!). These people would hold a door for us if they saw us coming. Our enemies are not only the people holding “Fags Die God Laughs” signs, they are the nice people who just feel like marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense, it’s just how they feel! We once got a very nice comment on this site that we decided we could not publish because its content was “But how can I respect women when they dress like – sorry to say it, pardon my language – sluts?” This is vile, disgusting misogyny and no amount of sugar coating and politeness can make it okay. Similarly, most of the people who run ex-gay therapy clinics are actually very nice and polite! They just want to save you! Nicely! Clearly, niceness means FUCK ALL.
On an even more serious note, nice people also DO horrible bad things on an individual level. In The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker, he explicitly says that people who intend to harm others often display niceness towards them in order to make them feel safe and let their guard down. This trick only works because we have been taught that niceness indicates goodness. What is more, according to De Becker, women have been socially conditioned to feel indebted to men who are “nice” to them, which is often exploited by abusers. If this doesn’t seem obvious to you, I suggest you pick up the book – it talks a lot about how socialization of men and women makes it easier for men to abuse women.”
Here’s another example. My fifth-grade math teacher was also a Catholic nun. Sharp-tongued and hard as a brick, she didn’t suffer fools kindly or at all. She demanded hard work and excellence out of each of her students. She wasn’t a nice woman, but she was a very good woman and one of the finest Christians I ever had the pleasure of having as a mentor. She taught me the value of hard work and never to give up on myself.
Niceness is how abusers and other predators disarm their targets. It’s not uncommon for sociopaths to be charming and witty and seem to be too good to be true. This is especially true of batterers, pedophiles, and rapists.
My ex-boss was a very friendly genial guy. He was also a liar, a crook, and a bigot.
Southern hospitality is a phrase that describes Southerners as warm, sweet, and welcoming to their neighbors and visitors to the South. White southerners are the nicest people on the planet. They are also the most racist and ruthless as countless burned churches, schools, and murdered African-Americans over the centuries will illustrate.
This is also where the phrase “nice guys” emerge in feminist circles. “Nice guys” are essentially misogynists who believe that because they open a door for a woman or feign insincere politeness, the woman is under obligation to date them or have sex with them. After all he’s being a nice guy. And to friend-zone him is sacrilege. Those type of nice guys should finish last.
For people of color, women, LGBTQs, who face bigotry day in and day out, they often don’t have the privilege or the luxury to be “nice” when dealing with bigotry and struggling for their very humanity.
Another correlation to this is the logical fallacy known as the tone argument. The tone argument is an ad hominem attack where an argument or position is dismissed or accepted on presentation. This is often used by concern trolls in an attempt to derail discussions and silence their targets. Tone is subjective, it does not negate truth. Just as niceness ultimately is subjective and it does not in and of itself measure the content of one’s character, especially in terms of good and evil.
One word, four letters. Arguably the most powerful force in existence and arguably the most misused term in language. When most people think of love, they think of it in the romantic sense. They believe that it is passive and all Kumbaya.
It is true what the Good Book says. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love can be as soothing as a candle flame, a drop of water or light breeze. It can also be a raging inferno, a monsoon or a tornado. Love can make extraordinary people achieve extraordinary feats.
Love is Jane Elliott and Father Michael Pflegler dedicating their lives to educating other whites that Black Lives Matter. Love is a Middle Eastern Jewish carpenter from Nazareth being crucified for the sins of man. Love is a group of mutant superheroes fighting to protect a world that fears and hates them.
Love is a mother stepping between her daughter and a sociopath, removing her wand and proudly proclaiming, “NOT MY DAUGHTER YOU BITCH!”
Love is fighting for a fundamental truth much larger than you even if it means paying the ultimate price.
Love is gazing in the mirror and appreciating the extraordinary soul gazing back. Love is having the strength and fortitude to stand tall for you and yours because you are someone worth fighting for.
David Bowie had it right when he said that the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
It ultimately comes down to choice. Namely, our choices. Emotions in and of themselves aren’t good or evil. What ultimately matters is whether or not we choose to reflect, do internal examination and how we choose to act on those emotions. That is what essentially defines us.
No matter how you feel, when it comes to emotions, the bottom line is, it’s your move.