Emotions are a vital part of our humanness. Yet we tend to either justify our over-reacting to our emotions or we shut them off. But understanding and being honest about our emotions is imperative to our relationship with God, others, and even ourselves
For those who become overwhelmed by an emotional experience, it’s good to quiet the body, mind and soul and ask, ‘what is this emotion really about?’ While we shouldn’t excuse our behavior because of our emotions, neither should we tell our emotions to simply ‘shut up’. Our emotions are telling us something very important. They are telling us I desire, I hurt, I’m tired, I am afraid, etc.
For those who have suppressed emotions, it’s good to practice quieting the body, mind, and soul and ask, “what am I really feeling right now?” We can often get caught up in suppressing our emotions because we don’t know what to do with them. The result is dying to our emotional/spiritual side altogether. Unfortunately, when we suppress our emotions it tends to come out sideways whether we want it to or not, in the form of anxiety, depression, control, and addiction.
We need to be able to feel the feels in honesty. Bringing our emotions to our minds allows us to own our decisions and take responsibility for our lives. It enables us to accept the things we cannot change and have the courage to change the things we can.
The Psalms are full of examples to us of being honest in our emotions with a faithful God who cares for us. There also is an entire book named for one particular emotion to example to us how it’s done: Lamentations.
It is good to acknowledge our feelings for what they are. But feelings can also lie to us, telling us we are guilty when we are not, telling us we are a lost cause when we are not, or telling us life is hopeless when it is not. So, asking ourselves honestly, ‘what is this feeling about?’ and living out courage to change the things we can, is the only way we can live authentically before God and with others.
What can our feelings tell us?
I am wrong: Really thinking through this is important. There is a difference between ‘I am wrong’ and ‘I did something wrong’. The truth is you might have done something wrong, in which case God has provided ways to clean up the mess through accepting responsibility, confession, and making amends. If the thought is ‘I am wrong’, then understanding your true purpose and identity in life is taking steps to freedom.
I grieve: Grief is one of the worst feelings because there is absolutely nothing that can be done with the loss. But loss is supposed to hurt. There is no way to heal from grief unless you go through it. If you try going under it, over it, or around it, you will get stuck in it.
I desire: Desire can be good or bad, depending on what you are desiring. It will help to know if it’s a good desire by asking, what need is it fulfilling in me? What will be the fruit of obtaining it? Desiring peace is a good thing unless you are giving a tyrant what they want.
I’m tired: Am I tired because I’m running from my emotions? Am I over-achieving? Being self-reliant? Is there a change I can make in order to rest?
I fear: Fear is good if you are standing near the edge of a cliff. But fear is not good if you have to be in control of everyone around you in an attempt to have the perfect life. Ask what is this fear about? What evidence is there that this will become a reality? Is this mine to control?
I’m sad: Sadness is not the same as depression. It’s a missing of something vital to our lives. It means we are still alive and have desire. It often means we have the capacity to love and care still. Acknowledging our sadness allows us the ability to grieve the loss.
I’m angry: There are some things that we should be angry about. Naming the anger is the first step. But we can’t excuse destructive behavior even when our anger is justified. So, finding out how to move toward a solution is a healthy response to our anger.
I’m not safe: It’s good to listen to your gut if you don’t feel safe. By acknowledging this emotion you can then make a safety plan. But, believing that there is no one who is or no place that is safe means there’s some healing work to be done.
Brene Brown has written that when you refuse to acknowledge negative feelings you shut down all of your feelings. You cannot be selective in shutting down only some of your emotions.
Burying these emotions (and many others) will only produce destructive elements in your life. Acknowledging them, asking what the emotion is about, and having the courage to make any necessary changes will lead to emotionally healthy spirituality.