Friday, June 6, 2014

The (not so) Evil of Emotions

How are you feeling today?

As a child, I hated emotions. I tried to cut all of them out (including the good ones). Depression and anger tended to hang around a lot, though. We often had family therapists come into our home. One, in particular, I despised. He'd come over once a week and immediately pull out a poster with a bunch of faces displaying different emotions. "So Brandi, how are you feeling today?" My response was generally "I'm pissed off!" to which he'd ask why. My answer was simple, but always formed as a question - "Because you're here?" I hated therapy sessions with him. I hated him. And I truly hated that stupid poster. He'd always give some "it's ok to be angry. Let's talk about it," reply, which I hated.

There is very little that is more infuriating then expressing complete anger at someone and having them say "I understand you're angry with me. That's ok," in that calm tone. It's even more infuriating when you know that what comes next is this person trying to make you see that you shouldn't be angry. Anger is bad.

Emotions are evil

How many times, just in the past week, have you seen memes or statuses online that say something like this:

- it's wrong to fear
- love isn't an emotion
- anger is a sin
- depression is a lack of spirituality?

If you're anything like me (i.e. online 90% of the day), you see several of these a day. It seems to be a common belief that we are not supposed to be emotional creatures - emotions are a product of sin and/or a cause of sin. God does not want us to be emotional. God doesn't want us to fear (unless of course we're fearing Him... which is a whole other topic). He doesn't want us to love with our hearts. Anger is murder (ok so yes, this one has a biblical reference to it, but... well.... just keep reading...). And depression? No! No! No! There is absolutely no way a real Christian would feel this.

If you're anything like me, these memes, statuses and comments drive you nuts.

Even God is Emotional!

I'm sorry - but just because I believe in God and follow Christ doesn't mean I don't feel emotions. Sometimes, very strong emotions. And, just because I feel these strong emotions does not mean I am not filled with the Holy Spirit. Emotions are very much a part of us. Even God has emotions.

Anger, love, jealousy, grief, joy - God displayed all these emotions (and probably others) at various times within the Bible. The Bible also states that we were made in His image. Maybe I'm completely off base with my thinking here... but it just doesn't make sense to say He has emotions, and we're created in His image, but emotions are brought on by sin.

This doesn't mean emotions can't be bad...

The true bad of emotions

1. Making blanket statements about emotions being wrong, is wrong. 

This is especially true when told to a child. We tell our boys that they're acting like a girl if they cry. We criticize girls when they get moody. We tell our children they aren't supposed to get angry or jealous. There's something wrong with them if they're depressed. Basically - we're telling people it's bad to be human. We're shaming (another emotion) people into not feeling emotions. Which, of course, will eventually create a lot of angry, depressed people. Yup. That works. Almost.

And by the way, if you take that a step further (or step back) to the concept that we're created in God's image... we're basically telling God He's wrong.

2. Emotions to an extreme have the potential of being bad (and just really aren't fun)

Anger left unchecked leads to broken relationships at best, and murder at worst. Or, perhaps it's best to say that anger left unchecked leads to murder (whether murder of the relationship (including a relationship with God), or physical murder of the person(s)).

Depression left unchecked can lead to a broken relationship with God, or others, or suicide. Jealousy can lead to anger and/or depression. Even joy to an extreme or love for the wrong things/in the wrong way can be bad.

How do we keep emotions from being bad? 

The trick isn't to kill emotions. It isn't to lump all emotions into the category "bad" and turn all humans into Vulcans (although Spock is a cool character in Star Trek - could you image a world of only Spocks?). What we should be doing is teaching our children how to deal with emotions. We should be teaching ourselves how to deal with emotions.

How do we do this? Heck if I know... I tend to be overly emotional, and struggle daily to keep my emotions from running amok. But, I will attempt to cover what I've learned in another article. Until then, if anyone has anything they want to share on how they keep their emotions from overflowing too much - or just flat out wants to disagree with me on my notion that it isn't wrong to feel fear, anger, love, joy, grief, etc - please comment.

God bless!

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