Pastoral Care and Connections

I dragged my beloved dog over to the couch and yelled “no” at him several times as I pointed to the cushions. I was angry he had been scratching at the cushions, pulling threads from the cotton upholstery. My housemate, who owned the couch, was really irritated with me, and I passed the anger along to the culprit. Later, sitting down opposite the couch, calm and thinking as I looked at the cushions, my cat jumped up and began to massage the cushions, pulling one thread after another. It’s much harder to punish a guilty cat than an innocent dog. I still feel regret and guilt 25 years later.

Yesterday, I preached about the importance of balancing reason and emotions in our daily living. I want to briefly continue my thoughts and offer a helpful tool.

For survival and evolution, we need to apply critical thinking, logic, and reason to many important decisions, analysis of events, and understanding the universe. Historically and culturally, white people have valued reason over emotions, at times even denigrating emotions as dangerous. While there are moments when our emotional reactions and behavior can result in harm, that usually happens because we are not paying attention to our emotions, and they creep out or explode in unhealthy ways. Emotions are not dangerous; not paying attention to them is dangerous.

I was experiencing high levels of stress 25 years ago while working at a trauma hospital; I couldn’t keep up with my swirling emotions and frequently suppressed them.

Our emotions are as important as our capacity to think clearly and logically; in fact, often, they are more important, because what we are feeling influences what we are thinking. Frequently they do so in unconscious ways, and we find ourselves rationalizing and justifying unhealthy decisions and perspectives. Becoming more aware of our emotions is fundamental to happiness and fully living the spectrum of daily experiences.

I suspect none of us wants to admit on our deathbed that we failed to live.

Yesterday, I recommended you keep a daily journal on what you are feeling, not how you feel (hungry, sleepy, tired), but what feelings are coursing through your body. A beloved church member recommended an emotion wheel, a tool that gives us language for the many, many feelings that we experience. The wheel recognizes there are multiple levels of emotions, often at the same time, and they overlap, which is often the cause of great confusion and frustration for all of us.

My beloved dog experienced my anger, which came from fear and frustration, along with helplessness. Today, I strive to learn from my regret and guilt by pausing before passing judgment upon those who cannot defend themselves, and I no longer have a cat.

Enjoy this article on using the emotion wheel:

Cheers, Rev. Kate


Architect Luke Desmond died on Feb. 19th at age 86.  Mr. Desmond was the architect who designed our garden lobby, where the elevator would fit, several door changes, including one from the garden lobby to the Schweitzer room.  In addition to those designs, he was a delightful man with whom our three capital campaign co-chairs could work. 

Thomas Morton, active in the congregation in the 1990s, died Friday, February 25, after a long illness. A service was held Monday. More information can be found here: