The weight of emotions
I'm definitely a feeler, you know. I enjoy intellectual pursuits, but as one friend pointed out years ago, many of my statements start with "I feel that..." rather than "I think that..." It's my right-brain tendency, as I'm well-aware. That said, I've been thinking a lot about how much weight I should give my feelings. I read this really good article about treating emotions as gauges, not guides. When I'm in a funk, I want to be conscientious about taking a few steps to address my emotions. It's not a groundbreaking process, but it is effective and biblical. I'm a list maker by habit, so here's my process to avoid giving emotions more weight then they deserve:
- Identify the emotions (being utterly truthful, regardless of how ugly they may be)
- Refuse to allow emotions to dictate my actions, paralyze me, or to drag others into my bad mood
- Seek the source of the emotion—usually a belief (namely, believing a lie about God)
- Answer the lie with truth from Scripture.
- Make it applicable. Incorporate that truth as I reframe my emotions.
Of course, its much easier to ride the tide of anger or jealousy or sadness or conceit or loneliness. Why is it worth my time to do the hard work of processing emotions? Because they can dictate actions and harden hearts. We are physical beings, but we are also spiritual beings and it takes maintenance to keep a soft heart. To avoid being entirely abstract, here is a paraphrased example I journaled about a few days ago:
- Emotion on that day: feeling inadequate/incomplete joy and a longing for something more.
- Stop. After identifying the emotion, remove it's power. Remind myself: Do not act on this by choosing earthly, empty pursuits, and do not be immobilized by it
- Seek the source of the emotion: treating time with Jesus as a "box" to check off, giving a tiny part of my life/time, and expecting everlasting joy. The lie I'm believing: time with Jesus is not satisfying, the world offers more joy for me, He doesn't want good things for me or He doesn't care either way, I deserve more than what He's given me, I have better plans for myself then He does—I warned you I would be utterly honest
- Answer with truth:
Psalm 107.9 : For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. 2 Chronicles 16.9 : For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. James 1.5 : If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him. Psalm 32.8 : I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go, I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Galatians 6.9 : Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up. 2 Corinthians 9.8 : And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
- Make it applicable. Memorize scripture, write it on my heart so that it begins to frame my emotions. Personally, I adore my set of 50 Promises memory cards (seen in picture below).
Do you have any other ways to find a healthy balance with emotions? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
If you're curious, here's a bit more heart talk in these posts from the archives:
A heart check and choosing to praise // A heart in tune // House and heart talk