Can Christians Become More Spiritual By Suppressing Their Emotions? (Watchman Nee)

Can Christians become more spiritual by suppressing their emotions? Watchman Nee, the late Chinese church leader and Christian leader, addressed this question in his book, The Spiritual Man.

As to the matter of soul, I honestly feel most Christians swing from one extreme to the other. We on the one hand usually consider emotion as soulish; consequently those who are easily moved or excited we normally categorize as soulish. On the other hand we forget that being rational does not at all constitute one as being spiritual. This misjudgment of spiritualizing a rational life must be guarded against equally as much as against that of mistaking a predominantly emotional life for spirituality. Proceeding one step further, we should never reduce the function of our soul to deadly inactivity. Formerly we may never have viewed our soulish feeling and excitement with any degree of concern and thus we walked accordingly. Later, however, and recognizing our former error, we now suppress these emotions altogether. Such an attitude to us may appear to be quite good, but it will not make us a whit more spiritual. If my reader should misunderstand on this point, and no matter how minor may be this misunderstanding, then I know his life is going to become very “dead.” Why? Because his spirit, without any opportunity to express itself; will be imprisoned by a deadened emotion. And beyond this lies a further danger; namely, that in overly-suppressing his emotion, the believer will develop eventually into a rational, not a spiritual, man; and thus, though in another form, he still remains soulish. Yet the excitement of the soul, if it expresses the spirit’s feeling, is extremely valuable; and the thought of the soul, if it reveals the spirit’s mind, can be most instructive.

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