"Healthy feelings, properly ordered among themselves, are essential to a good life. So if we are to be formed in Christ-likeness we must take good care of our feelings and not just let them happen. Feelings can be regulated by ordered, godly habits and self-control." (Willard 2002:93)Transforming Feelings...
Closely connected to thought life Willard -by looking at James 3-4 -points out our 'prisons of disorder and vane distraction' to look at how Spiritual Formation should identify our destructive feelings, sensations, emotion.
"The process of spiritual formation in Christ will transform our feelings by grace... a first step is to desire sincerely feelings that lead away from feelings that are contrary to what we understand of God."To deny such feelings would neurosis. Willard points out that when these destructive feelings happen the key question is "How can we deal with feelings?" His answer:
"The answer to these destructive feelings is not to deny that we have them or try to repress them. Â The proper course of action is to replace destructive feelings with others that are good, or to subordinate them intelligently to a rational order so that they become constructive." 92Digging deep into Proverbs Willard goes on to make very clear distinctions between feelings that are good and life enriching, and feelings that are destructive.
- the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (9: 10).
- hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs (10:12),
- a heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones (14:30).
- the cheerful heart has a continual feast (15:15),
- and a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (17:22).
The danger as Willard points out is that:
"We do not go at the change the other way around, trying first to root out the destructive feelings. That is the common mistake of worldly wisdom and of much 'religion' on such matters. But we know that life in Christ brings the fruit of the Spirit, and destructive feelings, and actions, will be replaced. Love, joy and peace fostered in fellowship with God simply crowd out fear, anger, unsatisfied desire, woundedness, rejection. There is no longer room for them. Well, perhaps there is for a while, but increasingly less so.Â (Willard 2002:104)The question is what needs to be crowded out? Let that positive movement take control.
Dallas Willard on Spiritual Formation... 1/9
Dallas Willard on Spiritual Formation... 2/9
Dallas Willard on Spiritual Formation... 3/9