Introduction: You’re reading Part 3 in a blog mini-series on Emotional Intelligence. Read Part 1: Emotions: God’s Idea and Part 2: Why We Feel What We Feel. I’ve developed this series from material in my book Soul Physicians.
How God Designed Our Moods to Work: Mood Order
We tend to develop rather patterned approaches to life. Relationally, we pursue affections that motivate our actions (Psalm 42:1-2). We cling to our Creator or to created realities—pure or impure affections, lovers of the soul or idols of the heart. Either we worship God our Spring of Living Water, or we dig broken cisterns that can hold no water. We enjoy intimacy with Christ or we weary ourselves pursuing false lovers.
Rationally, we develop mindsets that persist over time (Romans 12:1-2). Either we direct our lives according to the mindset of the spirit/Spirit or we pilot our lives off course according to the mindset of the flesh. Either we guide our lives along the narrow path of wisdom or along the broad road of foolishness.
Volitionally (our will), we develop purposeful pathways of intentional interacting (Joshua 24:15). We trod a path toward what we perceive will satisfy the hunger of our heart. We habituate ourselves either toward willing God’s will or willing our own will. “Your will be done,” or “My will be done.”
Emotions are no exception. We not only experience instantaneous emotional responses, we also encounter ongoing mood states. A mood is a background feeling or emotional state that persists over time. It is less intense and longer lasting than emotions. My mood is my prevailing tone or coloring, my state of mind, frame of mind. In a sense, it is my emotional outlook that occurs both at a particular time and settles deep inside me over time.
As with emotions, moods are the intersection of our emotional/feeling responses and our rational attitude/perceptions. My mood reacts both to the external events of my life and to the internal longings, images, ideas, goals, and actions of my soul.
Created by God, moods, like emotions, were a very good thing. Our heavenly Father intricately fashioned His image bearers to experience a variety of positive emotional states, the most optimal moods. Our moods and emotions have a purposeful function or they would not exist.
Emotions and moods contain vital signals of readiness not simply for action, but for interaction, and rest from interaction. They signal when we need to interact and when we need to come apart (before we fall apart). Jesus identified within Himself moods that led him to seek solitude (Mark 1:45; Luke 5:16) and that led Him to engage in intimate interaction (Luke 5:15; Mark 3:1-6).
Our moods guide us to mobilize our resources for wise relating. They work with our self-awareness so that we can become attentive to our emotional states as our inner person interacts with our outer world. Moods motivate, or better, moods jolt us into awareness, promote pondering, and motivate us toward appropriate interaction. Taken together, we can define mood order as:
- My God-given ability to feel my own feelings, to sense my own life experiences, and to become self-aware of my prevailing emotional mood state(s).
- My God-given thermostat that quickly gauges the relational temperature outside and my personal temperature inside.
- My God-given capacity to courageously, lovingly, and wisely respond to my inner and outer world. I perceive what I feel and I choose how I respond.
Moods in the Garden
What was the mood process like for Adam and Eve? All order ultimately arises from connection. So when Adam felt happiness and joy in the presence of Eve, his entire being became focused on connecting, attaching. “I like being with her. I want to be with her. When we are together, I am outrageously happy.”
Sinless Adam and Eve also could have experienced legitimate sadness—a sadness due to absence that impelled them to reconnect. Adam is working in one part of the Garden. Eve in another. Happy in her work, but aware of a growing sense of sadness, of a developing mood of aloneness, Eve stops. She ponders. She recognizes the source—she misses her hubby. She runs to him, throws her arms around him, kisses him impetuously. “Just wanted you to know how much I missed you!”
Separation, whether physical or psychological, is a basic cause of human sadness. Sadness provides a driving force to restore attachment, in the same way that hunger impels us to eat.
This ancient, biblical sense of mood corresponds to how other pre-modern people understood mood. Before AD 900 in Middle English, mood meant “spirit, courage, mind.” In the Old Saxon, mood meant “courage and spirit.” Mood had a very positive connotation. It was always correlated with courage, movement, spirit, aliveness, passion, and energy.
That’s so different from our modern or post-modern thinking. “He’s so moody!” “She’s in such a mood!” That could be a dynamic compliment, depending on the nature of the mood.
The Rest of the Story
Talking about “mood order” is “fun.” However, we would be naïve to stop here. We all know and experience the “disordering of our emotions and moods.” So in our next post we’ll explore Emotions: What Went Wrong?
Join the Conversation
How could you use this good news about good moods to enjoy and benefit from your emotions and moods, rather than fearing and fleeing them? What legitimate mood could you enjoy right now?