Emotions belong in two worlds or in two domains. They are either healthy or unhealthy, productive or unproductive, primary or secondary, direct or indirect.
We may come to think of emotions as purely relevant to only ourselves, but we only need to ask those who are close to us – those in our families and those we work with – and we quickly discover that our emotional worlds are interconnected.
If we are healthy and productive emotionally, dealing with our emotions truthfully, and we can experience primary emotions, we deal directly with ourselves, through being honest. This is always a blessing for others, and it is usually manifest in the ability and practice of getting the log out of our own eye. Jesus talks about this in Matthew 7:1-5.
An example of this is instead of diverging into anger, we go directly into our sorrow. There are so many things that make us feel sad in life. Sadness is not the enemy. Sadness is an invitation into healing.
Our emotional worlds are interconnected. If we acknowledge our hurt, experiencing God’s understanding, our compassion is available to all.
But if we are unhealthy, and therefore unproductive, emotionally, we can cost those who are close to us, which is always costly to us. We accost them with our unkempt emotions. We spew over them all sorts of vitriol, because instead of looking at our own junk, we prefer to notice what our eye doesn’t see very well – that little speck in them, as far as we’re concerned – God wants us focused on how we can love better, not on how they might be missing the mark.
We take what makes us sad, and instead of looking intently at our sadness, which is pain, and instead of staying in that place, we flee from pain. And the only way we can reconcile it is to blame someone else. We go from the core, primary emotion of sadness, which is justified and true, however painful, and instead of going deep into it to be liberated in the practice of acceptance, we take a shortcut and rationalise the pain as not only unbearable and unthinkable and unpalatable, but also as unreasonable and unfair and unwarranted. Somebody must pay! And how convinced we become. It’s a trick played on our vision. We are seeing the wrong things.
Our emotional worlds are interconnected.
If we’re hurt, and we remain unaware, we hurt others.
We all have one of two ways to go in dealing with our emotions. We go the right way or the wrong way. We have all had a taste of going the wrong way. We have all responded out of the wrong kinds of emotions. We have all taken our anger too far, not to mention having gone the route of anger when more correctly it could and should have been prolonged sadness to the destination of acceptance.
Few of us enjoy going to painful places. And I know I am not one of the few who seems to enjoy pain. Yet I do enjoy, at a deeper level, the therapy of God, as He interacts with me when I am honest enough to experience my sorrow.
The actual practice involves coming to a place of complete defeat.
Christians call it surrender.
If that sounds defeatist, you need to understand that it isn’t. It is the most beautiful thing to accept what we cannot change. When I admit defeat and give over those desires of mine that have become demands, it’s as if God says, ‘Finally, I have something to work with in you. Finally, you are weak enough to listen. Finally, you are weak enough to embrace My strength. Finally, you accept that it is best for you and for all concerned for you to do My will.’
Honesty is the open door to reconciling our emotions and our relationships.
Coming to this place, which is a sense of despair in oneself, is precisely the point of the Christian walk.
The despair comes first, then it’s life as God scoops us up in our spirit.
In our pride, which prioritises our secondary emotions like anger that refuses to acknowledge the truth, we are struck out before we take the first step toward first base.
But as soon as our pride is dealt with, and we realise that these primary emotions are nothing to fear, because the pain is bearable even if it feels unbearable for a time, we enter the safe sanctity of God and His deeper therapy for us.