on May 24, 2009
Emotions and Values: Exploring the Source of Jesus' Strength and Influence
(St. Johann Press, Haworth, NJ, 2009, 196 pages)
by Jack Good
"Mind and heart joined, animated by Spirit. This is a jewel!" Such were the excited words I scribbled in the margin while reading Jack Good's Emotions and Values. Subtitled "Exploring the Source of Jesus' Strength and Influence," this book replete with wisdom brings the worlds of psychology and religion to bear on the question of what it means to be a human being. Good draws on his deep faith, wide reading, clinical experience as a counselor, and skill as a writer to throw new light on the dynamic interplay of emotions and values--what he calls a "cycle of grace"--in a fully human life.
"Emotions may seem to drop from the sky. In reality, they arise from the foundations we choose to place under our lives." We choose our deepest values, Good contends, and from this foundation flow the emotions that nourish them (joy), defend them (anger and fear), repair damage done to them (guilt), and clear the way for new investments to replace old ones (grief).
Throughout the book Good effectively exemplifies his points first by showing how a couple he counseled were able to revitalize their marriage by learning to honor again their emotions and then by the example of Jesus, the foundation of whose life was the supreme priority he placed on the love of God and the love of neighbor as self. But Jesus, beyond our values-guide, is our emotions-guide as well. The conditioning of most of us, emphasizing his divinity, has not accustomed us to see a Jesus every bit as emotional as the rest of us. Good's elucidation of Jesus' firsthand knowledge of the full range of human emotions--all flowing from and then reinforcing his foundational love-values, and not excluding the more troublesome emotions of anger and guilt (yes, guilt!)--is but one of the rich discoveries awaiting the reader of Emotions and Values. May these words whet the appetite of those eager to read a depiction of the productive, fulfilling human life as "a lovely dance between reason and emotion, with the role of lead dancer alternating between the mind and the heart."
Reviewed by Charles C. Finn
on September 18, 2009
In Emotions and Values: Exploring the Source of Jesus' Strength and Influence Dr. Jack Good draws upon his experience as a pastor and psychotherapist to challenge his readers to understand the importance of emotions in a life of faith. He points out that many of us have been taught by our culture to repress our emotions. Emotions have been seen as our enemies, undermining our sense of control over our own lives and destinies. The result has often been the incapacity genuinely to love.
At the same time, the author recognizes that many of us have not learned to discipline our emotions. This has frequently resulted in the destruction of our relationships with those who are near and dear to us.
In either case, the problem is a failure to construct our core value for living as the genuine, unselfish, outgoing, but sometimes tough, love exemplified by Jesus. When love, as defined by Jesus rather than our popular culture, is our core value, an extension of our identity, then all of our other emotions, such as fear, anger, joy and grief, support, serve, and express that value. There is integration and coherence to our being in the world.
Good's definition of grief as "a wound so deep that it is beyond the reach of logic" strongly resonated with me. And I nodded in agreement when I read "Overwhelming sorrow causes many people to surrender their former concept of God..."
This is a wise and gentle book that I will recommend again and again to people who are experiencing difficult relationships, personal trials, and troubled faith. Those who take it seriously will surely grow in emotional and spiritual maturity.
on May 17, 2009
Jack Good is a thoughtful, serious writer who writes in easily accessible style. Central to this book is the idea of choice, including the choice to follow Jesus's example and teachings, and including the possibility that this decision might indeed lead to a life more abundant. He also offers very practical definitions of love, joy, anger, fear, and grief, showing us that they are indispensable parts of that abundant life, rather than offering us prescriptions for what a "good" person should feel. His reflections on his long experience as a counselor deepen the message. This is an inspiring, insightful book that deserves a wide audience.
on April 2, 2010
"For too long we have assumed that repressing emotions was the path to a carefully designed life. For too long we have assumed, also, that Jesus, the model for a chosen life of substance, was emotion-free. In both cases, the opposite is true. We can design our lives only by becoming, as Jesus did, friends with emotions - all emotions." This is the intriguing thesis of the book Emotions and Values, Exploring the Source of Jesus' Strength and Influence by Rev Jack Good.
Jack Good assumes he is writing for an intelligent reader and is prepared to push that reader to think in quite new ways about the role of emotion in the life of Jesus...and by extension in the reader's own life. The first two chapters establish the centrality of Love in the thought of Jesus - an emotional idea that is selected out of Hebrew tradition quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength" . Good points out that this is recorded in the first three gospels, as is the second command "You shall love your neighbor as yourself " which Jesus selected from Leviticus 19:18. In a carefully crafted and thoughtful passage he makes the points that when we love something, we take it into ourselves and include it in our sense of self and at the same time that choosing what we love is tantamount to choosing who we are. Good is clear that the love that Jesus describes might be recognized as Passionate commitment and it was key to Jesus' huge presence in history.
And if we love deeply, don't we also experience anger when something related to love of God or love of neighbor had been threatened? If we love deeply, don't we experience grief when a cherished fried dies or a precious dream is threatened? Jack Good effectively quotes New Testament scripture to establish that Jesus did manifest deep love, and did exhibit grief, anger, joy, and disappointment, all in relationship to choices he had made about loving.
If you want your vision of the deity to be immutable like Zeus ever the same on Mt Olympus, you will find this book uncomfortable. If you understand that in the complex act of loving God and Neighbor, we encounter God in much the same personal way that Jesus encountered God, then you will deeply appreciate the way in which the later chapters of the text trace Jack Good's experience as a pastoral counselor working with a couple who had gotten to the point that they felt no love for one another. I found his sensitive reading of that situation, held alongside of the synoptic gospels portrait of Jesus, to be illuminating for my own life and for my intention to design my life so that I see the Mystery Itself in my relationships with others.
This unpretentious but very thoughtful book belongs in the library of anybody who intends to model their interactions with others on the example of Jesus .