We used to hear a lot about “repression.” That meant that if you limit the expression of your emotions, there would be harm to body and soul. It meant that unexpressed passion of one sort or another would fester inside and cause us to develop a twitch, or worse.
Instead, it turns out that human beings are pretty good at managing our emotions because we can understand and respond to situations beyond what we’re feeling. We underestimate ourselves if we think emotions and passions need to always drive our behavior.
This is where the nifty virtue of prudence comes in. Prudence is weighing all the factors in a decision and then taking the best action in the right place at the right time. This complex virtue needs our heart and head to both be in gear: to make good decisions, we need to desire what is good and think clearly about how to achieve it.
Everything reveals God in some way, but only we are created in the image of God, to love, to be loved — and to use reason. Reason is what makes prudence possible. Our reason is unique in all creation – we’re able to step back from an emotional situation to consider the best action. Our reason makes us free to choose the most loving, most human response.
Our neighbor Terry, a soft-spoken teddy bear of a guy, spent his career in law enforcement. I’ve never seen him upset and I asked him how he manages to stay so calm. “I don’t let frustration rule,” he said. “You may be frustrated, and I ask myself what I can do to solve your problem. I step back and look at the logic of the situation.” Terry’s heart is the size of a Land Rover. He’s honed the magic combination of heart and head, blending empathy and reason – to love with everything he’s got.