What do you feel like doing?
Ask me that question, and at any given moment, I might answer it in a hundred different ways. Early in the morning, I might feel like locking my door, grabbing 8-10 of my favorite books, and putting my phone on “Do Not Disturb” for three hours. Ask me again about noon, and I’m likely to feel like eating lunch and then inviting the nap fairy to sprinkle her magic dust over my nostrils. Who knows what you’d get from me around 6:00 – I may feel like escaping to some trout stream in Montana, or I may feel like relocating to some urban, cultural epicenter so that I can enjoy a spicy plate of lamb madras.
To be honest, I have no idea what answer you’d get from me, because how I feel changes from one moment to the next. What I do know is that I’ll have feelings, a lot of them, and they’ll likely cloak themselves as demands that need to be obeyed. Feelings sit in the front row of our minds, screaming and waving their hands until they receive our full attention.
I counseled a husband and wife a few months ago who are now divorced. The man was having an emotional affair with another woman in town. A year prior, the man had a good job, a 20-some-year marriage, and a good relationship with his three children. Now he’s got nothing but feelings toward a woman who isn’t his.
When I asked him why he let himself go down this destructive road, he said: “I don’t know…I just felt like doing it.”
It strikes me that there are stark distinctions between being a child and being an adult, but age isn’t the most obvious one. The main difference between childhood and maturity has to do with how we deal with our feelings.
Do they master us? Do they drive the ship? Do we let them determine our days and most important decisions? If so, we’re children.
But, if we tame our feelings—consider them, evaluate them, but not necessarily run with them—then, we’re adults.
And here’s the thing about feelings. They themselves are childish. They scream and wave their hands at us, demanding to be heeded. They make messes, and then offer very little help in the clean up process. But, and here’s the good part, when we shush them they accept that response from us with very little consequence. They move on. They live and let live.
I like how Dallas Willard writes about spiritually mature people in Renovation of the Heart:
“They know and deeply accept the fact that their feelings, of whatever kind, do not have to be fulfilled. They spend little time grieving over non-fulfillment.”
Q4U: How about you? Do you struggle to say “no” to your feelings? Have you had a successful moment recently in which you “shushed a feeling,” making a good decision instead?