Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Paul’s Emotions in 2 Corinthians 2

1 But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.
2 For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me?
3 And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all.
4 For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.
5 But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. (2 Cor. 2:1-5)
These verses gave me problems understanding what was going on, so I want to discuss it a bit.

The impression I got as I was looking at it as a whole was there was lots of emotion going on, but that it was very complex.  (And of course translation doesn’t make it any easier.)

Breaking it down verse-by-verse:

V1 – Paul doesn’t want to visit the Corinthians while he’s depressed and sad. He doesn’t want to inflict that emotion on them.
V2 – He points out that the same person who he made sorry can also make him glad (by repenting)  He’s pointing out there can be mutual emotional effects between people, and they can go in good directions as well as bad.
V3 – Paul wrote to the Corinthians instead of coming personally so that he wouldn’t be negatively affected or made sad by the spiritual difficulties among the Corinthians. He wanted to rejoice with them all because of them all.
V4 – Paul felt very strong emotions of affliction and anguish as he was writing (probably a previous letter), but he didn’t want them to know that in order to make them sad, but to let them know how much he loved them. (He’s being open about his emotions, but he’s also trying to make sure that he’s not being emotionally manipulative. Some people express their emotions to guilt people into doing what they want, and Paul knew he didn’t want to do that.)
V5 – Paul expresses that the grief he’d felt had only partially been caused by the particular Corinthian church member who had done wrong. (Paul takes responsibility for his emotions here.)

Really, when you think about it, this is quite extraordinary stuff. Here you have an apostle talking about his emotions and about five different emotional interplays going on. It’s VERY complex.  

We can see that he is aware of his emotions. We see that he has VERY STRONG emotions—affliction, anguish, tears. He’s also very open about them.  But at the same time, he’s also aware of the effect his emotions can have on others, and so he works hard to make sure that his expression of his emotions doesn’t create spiritual problems for the people he’s ministering to.  He doesn’t want to emotionally manipulate them. 

I’m going to sound a little female-centric sexist here, but how often do we see a man do something like this?  Men usually avoid being emotional.  That’s why this is pretty neat to see what Paul does here.

I think we can draw a number of principles about emotional health here.
1)    Recognize when you’re having emotions
2)    Name your emotions
3)    Take responsibility for your emotions—people may do things that provoke emotion in you, but you get to choose what to do with your emotions. You choose whether to say something or not, whether to do something or not. You get to choose your words and the way you say them.  You get to choose your actions and the way you do them.
4)    Express your emotions, but in a way that doesn’t harm others or yourself.

Emotions are powerful, and I think Paul demonstrates that. He also demonstrates that they have to be carefully managed to maintain good relationships.