“My child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they will give you” (Proverbs 3:1-2, NRSV).
In the movie, “Star Wars,” Obi Wan Kenobi, tells Luke to “trust his feelings” as he attacks a death star. Most young people didn’t question this at all. Those who, for example, flew bombers in World War II or jets during Viet Nam have no memory of trainers telling them to trust their feelings. What you were supposed to do is learn to use the targeting mechanism and do it well according to instructions. In fact, one of the most important things that pilots learn is to trust their instruments not their feelings.
Unfortunately, this line from Star Wars exemplifies a huge problem in our culture – the idea that major lifetime decisions are to be made on the basis of feelings not reason. This flies in the face of all human experience throughout most of human history, where wise people have urged humans not to follow their feelings but to develop good judgment and become wise.
Throughout most of human history people did not think that children naturally became competent adults or ladies and gentlemen without discipline, knowledge and training. In the Judeo Christian tradition, from ancient times, it was taken for granted that children would not naturally develop life skills, they would not naturally learn wisdom, and they had to be trained. To become an adult, and especially a virtuous adult, required training in the skill of the virtuous life. Today, too many people believe that children can naturally just by following their instincts, become competent to meet the challenges of life. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Just this week, as a pastor, I confronted the tragedy of children growing up without a father and a mother to help them learn what it means to be an adult. Such young people are often angry and at a loss concerning what to do in difficult situations. In contemporary America, some of them end up poor, homeless, alone, struggling to achieve the happiness and fulfillment every human being desires without the help every human being needs.
Obi Wan did not give Luke the best advice. A better piece of advice would be, “Don’t trust your feelings until you have learned to discipline your feelings with experience, logic, and the advice of others who have gone before you. After a long apprenticeship in the school of life, you will be able to trust your feelings because your feelings will have been trained to instinctively lead you wisely.” Sometimes, good advice is a bit more complex than a catchy phrase.
Copyright, 2014, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved