Q&A with Reneau Peurifoy
Author of Why Did God Give Us Emotions?
Q: Let’s talk about the “elephant nature” of emotions. Why are emotions such a mystery to us?
A: A well-known Indian parable tells of six blind men who encounter an elephant for the first time. As each one touches a different part of the elephant, they arrive at conflicting conclusions as to what the elephant is like. The first man touches the elephant’s leg and states that it is like a pillar. The second touches the tail and declares it to be like a rope. The third touches the trunk and says it is like the thick branch of a tree, etc. Although each man’s perception is accurate, none has really understood the true nature of the elephant.
The same thing can happen with emotions when individual aspects of emotions are studied without stepping back periodically to see how they interconnect. The four main aspects of emotions explored in detail in Why Did God Give Us Emotions? include:
· The subjective nature of emotions: This includes how they make you feel, how they focus your energy and attention and how they urge you to take actions to obtain the things you want and avoid the things you don’t want. This aspect of emotions also includes the experiential understanding of events and concepts that is much more powerful than simple knowledge.
· The physical side of emotions: This includes the various parts of the brain associated with emotions, the physical reactions they cause in your body and the ways injury, illness or other malfunctions of the brain can affect how you think and feel.
· The mental side of emotions: This includes the role that your thoughts and beliefs play in generating emotions and how emotions, in turn, affect your thoughts.
· The spiritual side of emotions: This includes the way emotions reveal both your true character and the nature of your relationship with God as you struggle to live in a broken world. It also includes the way emotions give us insights about the nature of God.
Q: Can some emotions be good and others bad?
A: Christians sometimes spend a great deal of time pondering this question, whether some emotions, such as love, are good and others, such as anger, are bad. This is similar to wondering whether your hands are good or bad. Emotions, like every other aspect of your being, were originally intended to help you enjoy and serve God. However, just as the actions of your hands can be pleasing or abhorrent to God, your emotions can also serve good or evil. What we need to focus on is the source of the emotion or action. The source of evil lies in a mind and heart tainted with sin. The actions you take and the emotions you experience are just the outer expression of what is in your heart and mind. Yielding to the Holy Spirit transforms your inner being into what God intended it to be. As this occurs, your emotions, desires and thoughts are transformed so they function more closely to what God intends.
Q: In the introduction to Why Did God Give Us Emotions?, you point out that this book was twenty years in the making. Why such a long process?
A: When I completed my first book, Anxiety, Phobias & Panic: Taking Charge and Conquering Fear in 1988, I knew that I wanted to write a companion version from a Christian perspective. However, after being back in church for only four years and with so many conflicting ideas from my wanderings still in my head, I knew I wasn’t ready. In 1995, I started attending classes through Fuller Seminary’s extension program to deepen my understanding of the Bible. At this time I learned Greek and began studying the New Testament in Greek. A year later I wrote the first draft of this book but realized after several chapters that I was not yet mature enough in faith or understanding to write the book I wanted to write. So, I put it aside. I made another attempt to write it about five years later, but again was dissatisfied with the results.
Now, after twenty years of being humbled and growing in Christ, I believe that God has helped me write a book that will be useful to many. From the very start, I’ve had two goals: I wanted to look at what science has learned about emotions from a biblical perspective, and I wanted to do it in a way that would strengthen the readers’ walk with God. Over the last two decades I’ve seen the strengths of science and psychology in helping people and making our lives more comfortable. I’ve also become acutely aware of the inability of science and psychology to address the true source of human misery: sin and our separation from God.
Why Did God Give Us Emotions? by Reneau Peurifoy
LifeSkills Publications September 15, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-929437-16-3/240 pages/softcover/$16.95