Creatures of Emotion

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” As someone who has taught writing for over thirty years, I find myself increasingly buying into this quotation from Dale Carnegie. We English teachers spend time talking about constructing a logical argument and how to avoid fallacies, yet, if we’re honest, we see that people respond much more strongly and much more frequently to emotional appeals.

Even highly educated people respond more strongly to emotion than they do to logic, until they can’t overcome your statements, in which case they try to shoot you down with logic. Those same people attempt to build bullet-proof arguments out of logical bricks and mortar. Then, when their logical flaws are pointed out, do they, as logic and science would demand, amend their thinking? No, they go off on an emotional course.

Let me illustrate with an invented example:

Boss: It’s not at all personal that we’re terminating your employment.
Worker: You’re firing me?
Boss: We’re eliminating your position.
Worker: But the company website shows that you’re hiring someone for a job that sounds just like mine.
Boss: That’s different. And besides, your performance made your termination necessary.
Worker: But I had the best ratings of anybody in my department.
Boss: Not that performance–something else.
Worker: I find it suspicious that you’re firing me just after I pointed out your violations of company policy.
Boss: Security! Escort this fired employee from the premises!

What this sort of exchange boils down to is that we want to sound logical but that we’ll actually be driven by emotion.

Jesus tried to use logic in dealing with people. Frequently, we find him posing difficult questions to his listeners. Take this case from Mark 2:9-12:

“Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat, and walk’?  But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he told the paralytic—  “I tell you: get up, take your mat, and go home.”

Basically, Jesus is saying, “Anybody can say you’re forgiven, but only somebody with power can say ‘Get up and walk’ and then watch the person walk. Therefore, if I can do that, then I must have the power to forgive also.”

And the response of his accusers? Actually, we don’t know how they responded, unless they were among those who were amazed. However, the people who eventually put Jesus to death saw his actions and heard his words. They were not persuaded by the logic of those things. They simply behaved with emotion. “Okay . . . let’s kill him anyway!”

So what’s the point here? Should we be creatures of logic or creatures of emotion? We have to admit that believing in justification through the blood of Jesus isn’t the most logical thing a person can do. Is it an emotional response? Is it a logical response based on additional information? Or is there a third possibility? I don’t have settled answers for these questions, but as a merely emotional creature, I’m not required to have them. What do you think?