emotion feelings

Called to Feel, Called to Think

6:00:00 AMCatherine F. O'Camb

There is tension in our hearts, our intellect, and our will when we are faced with the challenge of having these three parts work together in acts of love. To understand this integration of the three parts, we must first realize the value of the person. When we understand the value of the person, we are able to ground our feelings to properly commit ourselves to serve the other. As there are various kinds of love, we find that the ‘love of a neighbor’ in particular is in need of better understanding. Therefore, let us focus on the example of a homeless man and how our responses to him demonstrate the danger of a disintegration of heart, intellect, and will. Furthermore, let us challenge ourselves to overcome this weakness and find a balance in order to have a more centered love for our neighbor.

We have seen several responses to the homeless man in our daily lives, two of which that go to extremes. One extreme we have seen is the enthusiastic volunteer who is almost uncontrollably excited and lives every waking moment until the homeless man is helped. The other extreme is the person who is disconnected from the homeless man and responds as if the homeless man is not a person at all and does not even exist.
In the first response to the homeless man, the over excited person is demonstrating a hypertrophy of the heart. In this state, we extend our heart excessively, which “often usurps the role of the intellect or will.” [1] We have an emotion which moves us to help the homeless in general and we go to every possible measure in order to accomplish what our passion demands. Although the overall desire to help the homeless is good, at the same time it seems here that the desire to help is rooted only in our mood.The homeless man who deserves to be recognized as intrinsically good is being neglected. This recognition demands an intellectual realization that the person is good. In which case, the heart is overpowering the intellect, the three faculties are imbalanced, and loving the neighbor is reduced to feeling moods moving one to service.
For our second response, we acknowledge another side of excessiveness or hypertrophy when the intellect dominates such as when we heartlessly pass the homeless man by. In this state, we react to the homeless man without being “affected by anything.” [2] When the heart is in this state, Hildebrand claims that we cannot be moved with responses of “joy or sorrow, love or enthusiasm.” [3] This explains our inability to move towards the homeless man. Instead of showing him the affection he needs such as compassion and love, we become observers and “intellectually analyze” the situation in an abstract and impersonal way.[4] We are not motivated to care, but we remain removed from our feelings.
When there is an integration of the intellect and the heart, we are able to approach the other more maturely. We achieve a better foundation for loving them with a true charity. As we have observed, when they do not integrate, we see the homeless man continuing his life without knowing he was noticed and felt by another like himself or the homeless man who was looked at as less than a person because the observer did not realize his true dignity. In this act of loving our neighbor we need to remember that love is rooted in a recognition of the intrinsic importance and dignity of the other, accompanied by a commitment of the will to do what is right for them.
Thus, let us finish with the wise words of Hildebrand: “The intellect or will should not try to supply what only the heart can give, nor should the heart arrogate the role of the intellect or will.” [5] Each has their own role and therefore, each should work together and cooperate to achieve proper acts of love.


Image 1. Homeless, psybeartist, 2011. (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/86/Homeless_%288329924557%29.jpg)

[1] Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Heart (South Bend: St. Augustine’s Press, 2000) 55.
[2] Ibid., 55.
[3] Ibid., 55.
[4] Ibid., 51.
[5] Ibid., 51.


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