There are two extremes when it comes to the relationship between reason and the emotions. The first is when we overemphasize reason and treat our emotions like an unwanted intruder. In this case, we either ignore or repress our emotions, and there is a real danger of becoming rigid. The other extreme is when we overindulge our emotions and become a slave to impulse. This leads to a kind of flimsy personality which lacks the vitality and strength for commitment and perseverance.
The key lies in bringing our interior life under the gentle rule of reason. Instead of reason being a dictator that imposes its will on our emotions, we can think of our intellect as a kind of curious leader who actively seeks the input and direction provided by our emotions. In this sense, we learn to listen to the clues that our emotions are giving us about our environment. Often they point to more subtle aspects of reality, things that analysis alone can tend to miss.
Reality is ultimately more than just information and facts. At the heart of reality is the person, and it is interpersonal exchanges which form the central feature of all of created reality. The first among these exchanges is that between us and God. Then there is our relationship with others, all of which are not a kind of auxiliary to objective truth, but form the core of what objective truth is. In Christian thought, truth is not an idea but a person, namely Jesus Christ.
Our emotions help us to enter ever more deeply into the truth. Although they must be educated and guided, they are an important touchstone through which we penetrate the communion given through the sacraments. Although our subjectivity is not the foundation for such a communion, it forms an integral aspect of its expression and enjoyment. Without our emotions, our communion with God and with neighbor lacks the tenderness and nurturing which elevates the heart and stirs the imagination.
To enter ever more deeply into the mystery of God’s love, we must pay attention to our emotions, but also seek to guide and educate them. We must become people who have the awareness of what we are feeling while having the mastery to not be slaves to what we are feeling.