You’ve probably heard it said, “Your capacity to experience joy is equivalent to your capacity to experience sadness and hurt.” I believe it is true.
Life is certainly filled with both. Each day has its own sorrows and joys and we must be prepared and able to feel and experience both.
“But I hate to feel sad so often,” Susan said during a recent Marriage Intensive. “I really don’t like to cry. I’m tired of feeling sad.”
She jumped out of her chair and left the room. Her husband, Dan, sat looking at me.
“Neither one of us are really that keen on feeling sadness,” he said. “She really hates to cry. She’ll get mad a lot quicker than she will let herself cry.”
“Well,” I continued. “We all need to allow ourselves to feel whatever it is that we’re feeling. Whether that means we feel sad, glad, fear or hurt, we need to sit with our feelings. Our capacity to feel those painful feelings is equal to our ability to feel joy.”
Susan was not unusual in her inability to sit with her pain. It is very common for people to avoid hurt and sadness and instead suppress those tender feelings. Like others, she runs from those vulnerable feelings instead of allowing them to instruct her.
Scripture tells us, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
This is a powerful and instructive piece of advice. I suggest that this passage tells us that we can feel strong and secure in any situation, as we have the Spirit of God to assist us. We are able to manage our emotions, but need not suppress them. Our ability to hold those painful feelings will allow us to make healthy choices.
Here is more advice on how to deal effectively with your emotions:
First, our emotions have been given to us by God. We have been made in the image of God, complete with a full range of emotions. We are not meant to be robotic, but rather as emotional beings. We have been created to feel love, joy, happiness, sadness, discouragement and even fear.
Second, our emotions are to be managed. While we are created with emotions, we are not to allow our emotions to rule us. Scripture tells us, “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” (James 1:20) While we can feel our feelings, we don’t have to and should not act on all of them.
Third, our emotions are instructive. Emotions reveal much to us. They can teach us what is happening to us and within us. We can step back, reflect and consider why we are feeling what we’re feeling. Then, with that information, we can choose what we want to do.
Fourth, our emotions are tied to how we think. We can learn much about our thinking and underlying attitudes if we are willing to reflect on our feelings. What we become angry about reveals what is important to us, our values and perhaps even misperceptions and attitudes we hold.
Finally, our emotions connect us to each other and to God. Our feelings are wonderful ways to express our vulnerability and share the deepest parts of ourselves to others and God. If we allow ourselves to feel our deepest feelings, we will be able to share those deep parts of ourselves with others.
Remember, our capacity to experience the heights of joy depends on us experiencing other emotions as well. If you would like further help, we are here for you. Please send responses to me at email@example.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives.
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Publication date: October 25, 2016