Whether one recognizes it or not, it is important to understand basic truths about our moral functions. The operations of and relationship between the mind, the emotions and the will are central to this understanding. The intention of posts such as this is other than mere academics. If moral agents are to function properly, if those in bondage to sin are to recover and find deliverance, if the human race is to enjoy the blessings of God’s design for life on earth, it will require the proper use or government of these three moral capacities.
The human mind is patterned after the mind of God. It is designed to evaluate various types of information and to grow in knowledge. In order to do this, one must engage in a particular process, one must do something called thinking. Our character and, to some degree, our destiny depends on whether we think properly or improperly. Though this applies to all areas of truth, our primary interest is in reference to moral truth, principles of right and wrong, virtue and vice.
Human beings are, as well, emotional beings. We register responses to thoughts and experiences that inspire anger, sadness, joy, etc. This is an incredible system which has a proper role to play in healthy human character and behavior. It can also function in a way that produces complications, if not downright destruction.
The will is a God-given capability employed in making choices. Again, our interest pertains to moral choices.
Books could be written on each one of these functions. The goal of this post is to consider the proper relationship between the three, and which of the three ultimately are to “rule” if we are to find a balanced moral approach toward life. We are not investigating which of the three acts first but which, in the final analysis, is designed to give direction to one’s moral development. If an individual is to produce good moral results, he / she must learn how to govern the capabilities possessed. How does this happen?
In order to begin providing an answer, I will use an illustration. Imagine a tractor trailer traveling down Rt.95 at 95 mph. There is a need to and proper arrangement for controlling and giving direction to this rig. There must be a man behind the steering wheel whose job it is to regulate the vehicle according to the course of the road. If he turns left when the road turns right (or any other inappropriate option), we have a problem, destruction or even death. By turning the wheel, the driver controls the tractor. The design of the trailer is to follow behind when everything is functioning as it should.
To apply this illustration, the driver’s name is Will. The tractor is the Mind, and the trailer is the Emotions. If Will fails to do his job, the tractor goes out of control and all three wrecks. It is quite possible that other travelers will end up in the wreckage as well. The same is true if the trailer takes control and determines the course of the rig.
Many people fail to govern their minds appropriately. Of course, this is a willful problem but that does not negate the fact that the will is designed to direct the mind upon the roadway of truth if we are to navigate life correctly. As the will directs the mind, the emotions are to follow along in a productive fashion. Sadly, many people live lives of emotional supremacy, wiping out others as they jack-knife through life.