In my poetry class this morning, and interesting topic came up. While discussing a poem that was very emotionally charge and relied on emotion to make a point about society, the question of whether or not using emotion in such a way was effective. This is most definitely an interesting topic to consider, but the point that one of my peers brought up was even more interesting to me: emotion is viewed as a weakness in our society.
The vast majority of those in the class seemed to agree with this sentiment - including the professor, who said that in rhetorical terms, emotional appeals that rely heavily on pathos, are often considered the weakest rhetorical appeals.
This very brief conversation that took place in no more than a minute got me thinking – is emotion really viewed negatively in our society? If emotion is weakness, then why?
One only need pay attention to the conversations around them to hear how emotions are often swept under the rug in our day to day lives. Hearing the that someone was just being emotional when they made a fool of themselves, that someone was letting their emotions get the best of them when they would end up making a bad decision, or that someone was all but ignored when they needed help because they were being dramatic happens on an almost daily basis. Why do we seem to think that emotions and, more specifically, showing our emotions impairs our day to day life? Why do we ignore emotions and focus instead on being brave and having a clear head?
There’s no doubt that sometimes our feelings can get in the way of sound judgement. There’s absolutely moments when we let our emotions overwhelm us to the point that we can’t think straight – but emotions are, overall, not a sign of weakness – they are a sign of strength.
I’ve seem a quote floating around the internet that always seems to resonate with me. The quote is from Katherine Henson, and says that “having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness.” Since when is letting our hearts be malleable to the day to day heartache and strife we encounter a bad thing? It takes incredible thoughtfulness and a big heart to let yourself be affected by life. It's all too easy sometimes to become numb to what is going on around us, and let our hearts become cold.
A countenance set like stone is often thought of as courage, of being brave. I would argue that the more courageous act is having empathy and compassion towards one another – even when life seems unbearable.
So is emotion a sign of weakness? I’m going to have to agree with my classmates and and Katherine Henson and say that no, it is instead a sign of immense valor.