Andy Stanley writes that all our emotional problems and spiritual problems stem from four basic emotions: Guilt, Anger, Greed and Jealousy. He traces all of the emotional issues that face humans, as far back as Cain and Abel, to these four basic emotions. The argument is clear and concise and he does have a convincing argument. He believes that if we would take a moment to dig deeper into why we are feeling a certain feeling eventually we will find that it stems from these four emotions which keep our hearts “out of sync with the rhythm it was created to maintain”. Part of this problem is that “we rarely stop to monitor out hearts” instead “we are taught [as children] to behave” but not how to dig deeper into why we act the way we act.
As Christians, we are not supposed to stop changing and growing at the moment of our salvation. As a United Methodist, we call this sanctification. Stanley tells us that we still haven’t given God full access to our hearts at that moment. We still have work to do. We must continue to grow in grace.
Guilt is the first emotion that Stanley highlights. “Guilt is the result of having done something we perceived as wrong.” He used the example of a man leaving his family for another woman and this incurs a sense of guilt for having stolen from his children. This incurs a feeling of debt towards our family. Since, we have usually all done something that we feel guilty for this leaves us will a defensive manner unless we are able to balance this debt.
Anger is the second emotion that he discusses. “Anger is the result of not getting something we want.” He says in many ways this anger stems from being hurt in some way. A parent that abuses a child has deprived that child of a happy or safe home thus resulting in anger issues. Stanley has a wonderful exercise for those who suffer from anger issues. “Here’s the question every angry man of woman needs to consider: How long are you going to allow people you don’t even like—people who are no longer in your life, maybe even people who aren’t even alive anymore—to control your life? How long?”
Greed is third on the list. “Bottom line, the greedy people believe they deserve every good thing that comes their way.” However, “greed is a different breed than the other three enemies of the heart we’ll discuss. Greed disguises itself.” You might not believe that you are greedy by disguising it as being careful or frugal or saving for the future. “Greed isn’t a financial issue; it’s a heart issue. Financial gain doesn’t make greedy people less greedy. Financial gain or loss doesn’t change anything, because greed emanates from the heart.”
Jealousy is the fourth enemy of the heart. “Jealousy says, ‘God owes me’.” “Let’s face it: most of us believe on some level that if God had taken as good care of us as he has for some people we know, our lives would be richer.” Stanley goes on to say that on some level this might strike us as “absurd” but he is able to make a sound argument for his statement.
Stanley goes on to give his prescription for confronting these four illnesses. To confront guilt, one must publically confess the sin. The remedy for anger is forgiveness. The solution for greed is generosity. Jealousy means that we need to take it to God and pour out our unmet needs and let the Holy Spirit work in our hearts. He uses the Book of James to make this argument. And that we are to celebrate what we already have instead of being jealous of what we don’t have.
“Confess, forgive, give, celebrate” are the four prescriptions for what ails the human heart.
This book was provided for review, at no cost, by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing.