Oh, the number of times that someone has said to me, “I’m not an emotional person.”
My inner response?
My outer response?
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Their typical response?
Image via Pixabay
The longer I live and the longer I pastor and the longer I study people, the more increasingly I become convinced that we are all very, very emotional people.
Every. Single. One of us.
Some of us wear our emotions out there on our sleeves, while others keep them quiet.
Some us feel things more deeply, while others not so much.
Some of us talk freely about what we’re feeling, while others don’t or can’t so freely.
Some of us have healthy ways of processing and dealing with our feelings; many if not most of us do not.
But every single one of us is an “emotional person.”
This should not be surprising.
We are all made in the image of God (Gen 1.27).
And God is most certainly an emotional Being.
Joy, grief, anger, jealousy, peace, frustration, compassion, love – in Scripture, God feels a whole lot of things (e.g. Zeph 3.17; Isa 62;5 Gen 6.6; Ps 78;40; Dt 9.22; Ps 7.11; Jg 6.24; Ps 135.14; Jn 3.16; etc).
And He most certainly has no problem processing and expressing His feelings.
In our desire to become more like Him, we should be desiring to also find ways to explore and express what we are feeling.
To some of us, that sounds like a full nightmare.
As a culture in the West, we celebrate the head. We always have, never more so than from the Enlightenment on.
Logic, reason, facts, research, knowledge, empirical study, the scientific method – these have been our culture’s most important values.
And of course, they are crucially important.
But rather than holding them in a healthy balance with our emotional selves, they have completely taken over as cultural values, at the expense of the heart.
It is an insult to say of someone, “They are so emotional.”
We admire stoic leadership and unemotional decision-makers.
We pride ourselves on quiet and solemn funerals.
The classic trope prevails of men not being allowed to cry.
We witness the inability of many of us to be able to openly talk about what we fear in life.
Observe the common knee-jerk reactions of anger, annoyance, frustration, irritation, etc., as this seems to be the one emotion that we do feel culturally acceptable in expressing.
Our culture worships the head, and in so doing, inadvertently kills the heart.
Even in church, so much of what we do is focus on study, theology, learning – activities of the mind.
Again, not wrong – just very, very incomplete.
Because the thing is, with no acceptable way to deal with our feelings, our feelings most certainly deal with us.
Here’s one thing I can say with certainty about our hearts:
We are incredibly emotional beings, made in the image an emotional God.
We must find healthy ways to feel our feelings.
We must find healthy ways to express our feelings.
There are lots of unhealthy ways we handle them:
Shove them down and deny them.
Numb them with drink/food/media/whatever.
Distract ourselves with work/hobbies/activities.
Bottle them up until something fairly small triggers an explosion.
Literally convince ourselves that we don’t have them.
Talk ourselves out of them, make excuses for why we “shouldn’t” feel that way.
Harden our hearts and deaden our emotions so that we can’t feel things in the same way any more.
The list could go on. I do many of these things myself.
The warning of Proverbs is, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,” (Pr 4.23).
Isn’t that a profound truth?
Everything you do comes from this place.
So we must protect our hearts.
Thus we should pay close attention to our words, which easily reveal what’s in our hearts.
When we are wounded, we seek healing. If we’re not sure how, we seek others who know.
We endeavor to know ourselves and to learn new ways to engage with what we are feeling.
We take notice of our unhealthy ways of doing this and work to find better ways.
We find people that we can trust, safe places where we can share without judgment and process in community.
And we, of course, lay it all before the Lord in prayer and invite Him into the process.
We are all emotional beings, made in the image of an emotional God.
Recapturing this part of ourselves is part of the journey of becoming more like Him.
This means that it is good, and that it is important, and that it should be a priority for us all.
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