Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Words and Feelings

I'm used to using words like anger, love, joy etc to describe feelings - someone's emotional state at a particular place and time. Feelings and emotions fluctuate and are forever changing - usually depending on external things like where I am and what has just happened. If I don't get enough sleep, I feel tired. If I drink Coca Cola or eat sweeties, I feel full of energy or totally hyper until the sugar high wears off and I feel depressed or sad.

In our 'Untold Blessings' study group last week, one idea (and this is the gist of it) really stood out:

The Wrath of God is not an emotion, but his passion to set things right.

This caused some discussion. Most of us tend to think of wrath, or anger as an emotion. To describe the 'Wrath of X' is to describe what someone does when their emotion is anger - talk loudly or shout, agressive, not open to reason or discussion, closed body language, decisive gestures and so on.

But the Wrath of God is not an emotion. So what is it? According to the above, it is a characteristic of God (as much as I understand God to have characteristics). And, it cannot be described - it is not the same - as the emotion.

So we have the same word, with two separate, different, discrete meanings:
  • Wrath - the emotion, which most of us recognise and can identify, and
  • Wrath - the characteristic. About which I know nothing.

This leads me to wonder if this is true for most - if not all - the words we commonly use to describe our feelings and emotions. Is there a joyful feeling (that can change) and a separate joyful characteristic (that is part of a person and does not change)? Is there a sad emotion and a sad characteristic?

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