Human Beings are creatures of emotion. Living wholeheartedly means embracing these emotions without being defined by them. Emotions are part of the suite of human capacities that enable us to navigate our relationships. We are afraid or angry in the face of perceived threats to our own flourishing or survival and desire things we perceive as good for us. Humans take pleasure in the enjoyment of things that are good and are sad when they perceive a lack of good things. Sometimes these emotions can come to be associated with things that are inappropriate. We may be angry at someone when in fact the circumstances that have given rise to our anger are a result of our own actions. We may be dominated by a fear of something, such as open spaces, that from a statistical point of view, is highly unlikely to kill us. We may desire things that are not really good for us or take pleasure in things that are harmful such as the classical vices of envy, gluttony, lust and greed. We may become deeply depressed in circumstances which materially-speaking really are not that bad. These examples illustrate how emotions, like so many of the attributes of the human person, are good for us. Emotions help us to flourish when we learn to experience, understand and act on them in an appropriate way. However, emotions can be damaging to us if they dominate us.
Key to understanding the notion of emotional and affective maturity is a proper acknowledgment of the importance of human freedom in the integration of our emotions. Created in the image of God, human beings are rational and free. When emotions come to dominate our thinking and acting in a way that compromises our freedom, then we are not living the fully human lives that we are created to live. When, however, our emotions are integrated through our rationality and freedom into our efforts to fulfil our calling to live wholeheartedly—to stand up for love—then emotions play an essential part in realizing human flourishing. The classical language of the Catholic tradition expresses this human flourishing using the emotive term happiness.
Happiness, beatitude, or flourishing is, according to classical philosophical and Catholic tradition, the thing that all human beings desire and which will ultimately be found in eternal life with God. Because we are endowed with reason and freedom by God we are able to experience a 'not-yet' perfect version of that happiness here and now. As images of God, that is, as God's representatives on Earth, we are able to work for the realisation of this happiness, this flourishing. Through our moral behaviour, moral choices and moral actions we can incarnate God's love in the world. In this way, we can literally make the world and ourselves, happier. Our emotions function to help us to perceive those things which are good because they contribute to this happiness, and those things which are bad or evil because they may ultimately frustrate the realisation of true happiness.