Dance Project 2011 at Western Kentucky University. Photo by Andrew Duff
In the past few months, I have been feeling convicted about the difficulty of melding a Godly mindset with the highly emotionally driven reactions that seem to be required in the arts. I know there are a good amount of books and lectures about being a light in the world of performing arts, and maintaining a pure heart and mind. But I wan’t to talk about the paradox of maintaining a Godly mindset, contrasted with the actual mental technique of the performer.
I was a musical theatre major and dance minor in college. My acting teachers would consistently drill into me that I had to be emotionally transparent, let things effect me, and react very realistically. This naturalistic way of entertaining my thoughts ultimately led to me reacting in a very worldly way… to everything. I became obsessed with how high I could rev my emotions. Every thought I had quickly turned cinematic, and my emotions just outrageously flirted with the world. I experienced this worldly change creeping into my real life in the name of “transparency.” I even considered this change a success because I thought it was making me a smarter actress. But at the same time it was making me a weaker Christian due to my sinful nature. Let me explain why it is so difficult to have genuine emotional reactions and a make Godly choices at the same time.
I have been reading a Bible study (Be Ye Transformed by Chuck & Nancy Missler) on the total transformation of our minds through daily renewal in Christ, which talks a lot about denying ourselves and our worldly nature in order to be filled with the truth of God. We must deny ourselves like this, because due to our sinful nature, what we naturally think and feel is not always Godly. The study therefore constantly talks about disregarding our natural emotions, and making faith-based choices instead, based on what we know is right. It then reminds us that God will do the work of aligning our emotions with our choices, if we do choose to do the right thing over what we feel like doing.
However, the arts, acting in particular, tell us something quite different. In the acting world, a good actor is one who follows every emotional whim in the name of making strong acting choices. In fact, these emotions are not only acted upon, but are magnified through those actions to theatrical standards. In the acting world, negative emotions are easily glorified because they make for a more interesting and tragic show. And as an actor/actress, it is almost required that you become somehow personally wrapped up in those feelings in order to make the performance believable. But in the real world, those natural feelings will lead to sin if acted upon before given over to God. It is an inevitable trap, because no matter how much “it is only a play,” some part of you still has to entertain those thoughts and emotions long enough to let the actions play out.
And this is where Satan piggybacks onto our emotions in hopes that they will lead us astray, making decisions without filtering them through the truth of the Word, or taking our natural sinful thoughts captive. The second we begin to entertain thoughts that are not of the Truth, Satan slips in and tempts us to act in ways that cause us to stumble in sin.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I do not think that acting is a sinful endeavor. I absolutely love what I do, and I don’t believe God gifts artists with something that cannot be holy or used to glorify Him. I just think that especially in the current style of very naturalistic theatre and art, it is very easy to slip into the glorification of acting on emotion instead of Truth in real life situations that aren’t just on the stage. Especially with the amount of training performers receive. These mindsets are just drilled into our brains. And we begin to think and react in this way day in and day out, even when we are not working on our craft. The vulnerability of emotion yields easily to a vulnerable soul. If we aren’t careful, and if we don’t leave that vulnerability on the stage, we open a door for the evil one to come into our lives a wreak havoc.
I also do not think Christians are non-genuine robots with no feelings. God created us to be emotional beings, so that compassion and empathy could lead us to do great things. But with that, comes the danger of acting on the negative emotions as well. This is why we need to give away our anger, hatred, bitterness, and pride, before we act sinfully upon it. Remember, that when we are strong enough to make faith choices over emotional choices, God will gift us with aligning our emotions to those faith choices. Because we chose not to sin, but to live in truth. This change in mindset actually becomes a joy, not a chore.
One last thing I want to talk about is the idolization of creating art. Once again, when I was in school, they continually stressed how art should come from your soul, and how whatever you feel goes. They taught me to run with whatever idea I had and make something with it. Now that I look back, I think I placed my art where God should have been. Instead of running to Him when I was upset and defeated, I ran to the studio to improvise a dance, or I channeled my anger into my monologue or song. I was giving my emotions to the wrong thing. To something that couldn’t fix them, but would only make them grow stronger and become more glorified in my life. I was being taught that the more tragically buried thoughts I had, the more material I would have for my art. But this simply is not good for a Christian’s lifestyle. Instead of living in light and exposure, giving my thoughts to God when they surfaced, I was burying all my hurts, doubts, bitterness, and regrets in the cess pool of sin I deemed my acting portfolio. I was proud of my emotional battle scars, and I wanted to let them fester, so I could relish in their endless capacity. But remember … this pride happens to be the root of much evil.
As of now, I do not claim to have all the answers to this predicament. I don’t have the magical formula that perfectly balances perfect art and emotional transparency with a Godly mindset. These are merely the thoughts I have been pondering based on my own experiences. But for now I will stress the importance of keeping the purity of yourself in check while trying to adopt the mind of a not so pure character. Ask God for the willpower to stay in tune with thoughts and actions that mirror Him, rather than naturally reacting before you think (as we are so adamantly taught to do in our culture that glorifies gratification and comfort). I do believe that God blesses the efforts of those who strive to obey Him, and that He wouldn’t give His children a passion for the arts if they weren’t supposed to use it.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”-Romans 12:2 “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” -Proverbs 4:23 “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” -James 1:14-15 “And do not give the devil a foothold.” -Ephesians 4:27
Haley Moore is from Louisville, Ky., and recently graduated from Western Kentucky University with a BFA in musical theatre and a minor in dance. She has done performance work in Dollywood, and Walt Disney World, and she enjoys journaling, blogging, fashion, and nature. You can visit her website at haleymichellemoore.com.