The recently released animated movie, “Inside Out” is being widely acclaimed as “inventive, gorgeously animated, and powerfully moving.” I concur. I took my niece to watch the movie (my excuse for watching children’s movies), and thoroughly enjoyed it. I am fascinated by brain function, and the animators of Disney/Pixar studios did a wonderful job showing how five primary emotions (joy, sadness, disgust, fear and anger) function and interact, affecting our memories and, ultimately, our behavior. From a non-scientist’s perspective, I enjoyed a glimpse into the fascinating world of the human brain.
However, taken at face value, the movie would lead us to believe that we are primarily emotional beings, and that our lives are directed by our emotions.
So, I wonder… How can a man like Paul, who was beaten, whipped, stoned, shipwrecked, abandoned, betrayed, robbed, persecuted and incarcerated, write from a cell in Philippi and say, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (4:11)? He teaches this young church to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (4:4). How can James say, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (1:2)? How can Peter call a persecuted church to “rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ” (1 Pet. 4:13)?
You have to be out of your mind to live this way!
Out of your mind!
The grand news is that it is possible to live beyond our emotions.
Don’t take me wrong; I appreciate the overall message of the movie that encourages me to appreciate and value a wide range of emotions. I’m not advocating for stoicism, for I know how damaging the suppression of emotions can be. But I am saying that, as a Christian, there is another side to the story.
You see, we are not primarily emotional beings. Neither are we primarily rational beings. Both emotions and intellect, along with human will, are part of the human mind. But we are not primarily a mind. The Bible declares that, made in the image of God, we are three-part beings: spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess. 5:23). We are primarily spiritual beings, made to relate to our Creator. We are perfectly designed to dwell in two realities at once: the spiritual reality where we commune with God, and the physical reality where we interact with one another in the context of a material world.
According to neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf, the human soul (or mind), comprised of intellect, will and emotions, is the bridge between the spiritual and the physical. She says that “The Mind and was created to be controlled by the Spirit of Man. The Mind is supposed to control the Body and therefore the Physical Realm. Any aberration in the hierarchy of the Spirit, Soul and Body of Man is a reflection of a fallen state and is not the original intent of God.”
We are designed to be governed by the Holy Spirit in our spirit; then for our spirit to govern our mind, and ultimately, our body. But when Adam and Eve sinned, our human spirits died. We were left to navigate life with only our soul and body. So we buy into the idea that the goal of life is learning how to us our intellect, will and emotions to dictate the rest.
The good news is that God has a remedy for that! When we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we are born again. His Spirit gives new life to our human spirit. We can see this clearly in John 20:22, where Jesus, after His resurrection, breathes on His disciples and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” With the indwelling Holy Spirit, our spirit is made alive again, and the hierarchy can be made right again.
We still have a choice. God has given us free will, so we can choose whether we will be governed by our body, our soul, or the Holy Spirit through our human spirit. Paul says it clearly in Romans 8:6, “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” The whole of Romans 8 is about life in the Spirit as the way to live the fulfilled life, as God intended it.
So, I join Paul in saying, “Walk by the Spirit,” and not by your emotions (as valuable as they are). This is the missing side of “Inside Out.”
Dr. Chiqui Polo-Wood 2015 | All Rights Reserved