We continue our series this week on ten benefits of faith to our mental health.
The eighth resource provided by Christian faith is that of right order. Emotional well-being comes from having right order in our lives. For St Augustine, peace comes from tranquillitas ordinis….the tranquillity of order (City of God, 19). St Thomas Aquinas developed this idea by referring to the ordinis caritas – that all things in our lives do not exist on the same level but need to be ordered in right priority if happiness is to be ours. First is to love and worship God, then family and friends. The more our lives are rightly ordered, the more the boundaries of the self are firm and clear with a stronger locus of self-control.
Research reveals a significant, positive relationship between religious belief and this internal locus of control. Christianity calls us to be free and responsible. It provides a foundation for a person’s life of love of God and neighbour and can provide a moral compass that directs our actions. Experience also shows that this proper order in our lives can easily be disrupted. The lower parts of the soul (emotions and appetites) rebel against the higher parts (intellect and will). Human thinking, willing and feeling become fragmented. This then spills over into fragmented and disordered relationships. If temperance is not part of our lives then disordered passions can compromise our freedom, leading to destructive addictions and compulsions which cause misery. For Christians, the commandments and the Beatitudes are not just laws but blueprints for the happiness God wishes us to enjoy. They are antidotes to chaos, slavery and the key to a well ordered life which leads to blessedness and peace. That is why the Psalmist could write: ‘Had your law not been my delight, I would have perished in my misery’ (Ps. 119:92).
PART 9 NEXT WEEK