I’m wrestling with the annoyingly constant fact that if I do not feel ok, I am not okay. I make a god of my emotions. My whole trust is put in them. They are my value, my perspective, and my guide. If I feel good today, it was a good day. If I feel lousy, it was an awful day. Emotion is the barometer I use to measure meaning, success, and validation.
Is it possible I have vaulted emotions to a pedestal they do not deserve? Am I improperly addressing life through mismanaging my emotions?
More Than a Feeling
I was feeling awful one day. Struggling with my faith. A lack of vitamin D. I didn’t feel any sense of purpose.
A friend of mine, Michael, confronted my wallowing and said: “Today is just today. You may not be feeling it, but you know it, don’t you? You know you have meaning and good friendships, you know life is hard but good.”
I looked at him crossways. Of course I know it. But why aren’t I feeling it today? What’s wrong?!
Why is it that we operate this way? Why do we put so much focus on our emotions? We feel close to God in worship services with loud music and waved hands. We feel close to our spouse during romantic nights. None of this is bad. But it is a set up. A trap. Because God is no less available when I’m not feeling the high of spiritual worship. Love is no less present in the mundane.
But I don’t see it unless I feel it. We say placid things about appreciating life through other means – intellect, trust, consistency, but the truth is that we do not believe in any of this. We believe only in emotions.
First off, let me say this: emotions are untrustworthy. They are not interested in the truth. They are interested in self-protection.
Emotions are alarm bells that let me know something of value is happening. But it is too simplistic and too foolish to trust in the emotions as arbiters of truth. They are meant to awaken me, not define me. They are meant to be the questions, not the answers, of my day.
So, I can tell you there are three things you can control. I can tell you of the power of choices and ownership. But you won’t believe me. If you’re anything like me, you primarily believe in your emotions.
What does it look like to escape this trap? How do we handle our emotions? We give them their due, no less and no more.
Is it possible to feel bad on a good day? I think so. I think hard things are not inherently bad things. Learning and perseverance and hope are not always accompanied by jolly emotions. Sometimes it takes experience and hindsight for us to realize the value of seasons where our emotions were low.
But does it have to be this way? Do we have to wait for weeks or days or years to see that our emotions may not have told the full story?
There is plenty of truth around us. Unwavering truth. There is hope and goodness and love, even in the midst of devastating destruction. Even in the midst of internal turmoil.
We cannot wait for our emotions to tell us we are ok. What we feel is not the truth of who we are. If we are enslaved by the preference of our previous experiences, we will never grow, never change, never progress.
There is more to consider in this world than our emotions. There is more to life than how we feel. Feeling is a coworker among many considerations. It is not to be discarded but it is not the boss. How you feel today is only the beginning of assessing who you are and how you are doing in this world.