Emotions fall into eight main categories: anger, sadness, fear, enjoyment, love, surprise, disgust, and shame. Sometimes we have experienced these emotions as a result of traumatic experiences that have caused us a great deal of distress.
Try to be in tune and identify your emotions. Basically, your feelings are telling you, “Hey! There’s something that needs your attention here!” And then, once the emotion has served its purpose, it should fade into the background.
So, when it comes to your emotional wounds, you should ask yourself three questions:
Where do you go with your pain?
Do you want to be healed?
What does healing look like for you?
We experience emotions because we are made in the image of God—and God is an emotional being (in the healthiest sense of the word). And so, God not only empathizes us during our times of emotional distress, but also wants us to experience His healing by entering into His compassion and grace. In our series CHRONIC - a series on emotional health, we dive into the following emotional bondages.
Just about everyone, at some point in their lives, will ask themselves the question, “Who am I?” Underneath this question are others like it: “What makes me unique?” … “From where, or from whom, do I derive my value?” … “How much of my worth as a human being is dependent upon my contribution to the world?”
These are questions that focus on identity. Coming to an accurate conclusion of who we are is critical to our mental health. In the attempt to understand who we really are, we can ask ourselves some questions to see if we’re heading in an unhealthy direction.
In the quest to understand our identity, we can get up in creating and maintaining a false self in order to protect our hearts from our shame, fears, insecurities, doubts—and perhaps anxiety of seeing who we really are.
The false self is built on the foundation of three deceptive ideas: 1. Performance (I am what I do); 2. Possessions (I am what I have); 3. Popularity (I am what others think of me). As you might expect, when fail to live up to these expectations, our sense of identity can take a significant hit.
The antidote to the poison of the false self is to stay focused on the truth that our true identity comes from being created in the image of God—the God who takes delight in us, who loves us regardless of what we do, what we have, or who thinks well of us. When we understand that God is shaping us into the likeness of his son, only then will be able to accurately see ourselves for who we are: unique, valued, and precious in the eyes of our Heavenly Father.
Watch the full message above.
It’s natural, and even healthy, to be concerned about “what might happen” in the future. However, when that concern becomes debilitating or paralyzing, it turns into a type of anxiety that not only affects our thinking, but also our ability to function well.
Our natural reflex when anxiety hits is to go into “control mode.” This is when we get preoccupied with the all the possible variables that could impact the outcome we dread—and then try to influence all of them.
Some examples of this might include: “I’ll pull some strings to make sure my kids do what I want them to do” or “I’ll do whatever it takes to get ahead at work” or “I’ll put all my time & energy into making money so that if what I’m anxious about happens, I’ll be able to buy the solution.” Bottomline, what’s driving all of this is simply fear.
The reality we face, however, is that so many things are out of our control that all the influence, energy, or money in the world will not prevent them from happening. However, when we focus on our intrinsic value to God, fear is slowly displaced by love, and our anxiety diminishes.
While it’s true that many awful things can, and do, happen, God assures us that He will not abandon us to those losses (over which we could do nothing to prevent). This is what it means to trust God in the face of uncertainty—not that He’s necessarily going to prevent what we’re worried about, but that no matter what happens, He’s going to experience our emotional pain with us, and then walk the path of healing and recovery alongside us.
Watch now: The Worry Monster
Anger can be an intimidating emotion—it can cause someone to speak out against an injustice, or lash out in violence—it can compel someone to push for the reform of an unjust system, or seek to assassinate anyone who disagrees—it can fight and protect our relationships, or destroy them in an instant.
One of the purposes of our God-given emotions, is to provide us with a signal that something needs our attention. The sudden or gradual presence of anger in our spirits is a signal that an injustice has occurred, and needs to be exposed and addressed.
Many times this “injustice” comes in the form of unmet expectations. Most of the unspoken expectations we have created in our hearts and minds seem so reasonable that they don’t even need to be discussed. But, when those expectations are ignored or dismissed, our first emotional reaction is often anger. And how we express that anger can make all the difference – from repairing a relationship to landing in jail.
Anger is an energy-producing emotion that can push us in healthy or unhealthy directions. The healthy expression of anger always gives the source of our anger the benefit of the doubt. And so, when confronting an individual who has unintentionally or deliberately stepped on our expectations, we first seek out his or her perspective on what happened. Then, in that context, (that might clarify some things for us), we tell the other person how his or her words/actions impacted us—and what we should do to address or rectify what happened.
If that person will not budge, we resist the temptation to take matters into our own hands (which is revenge), and continue to seek resolution with appropriate accountability (which is biblical justice). In the New Testament, we’re told to “be angry—but not to sin in our anger.” There’s no need to be a spewer, stuffer, or leaker when it comes to expressing our anger—instead, we can use this dynamic emotion assertively in redemptive ways.
Watch now: An Angry Heart
According to Brene Brown, social researcher and author, “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” Shame says you’re unacceptable, unlovable, and unworthy.
There is big difference between shame and guilt: the focus of guilt is behavior; the focus of shame is identity; guilt says “I made a mistake,” shame says “I am a mistake”; guilt says “I did something bad,” shame says, “I am something bad.”
Legitimate guilt is a healthy emotion when it signals to us that we’ve unintentionally or deliberately disobeyed God—and we need to own up to the damage that our destructive words and actions caused. Wrestling with a vague sense of guilt that we can’t tie into any specific words or behaviors is a version of shame that has no redemptive value.
Legitimate guilt does not have to last more than 15 minutes. Once we’ve become aware that we’ve been rationalizing our unhealthy behaviors, we confess those sins to God, look to Him for mercy, and receive His forgiveness. However, when guilt is allowed to linger without acknowledging our specific misdeeds, then this emotion often turns in the shame, and can begin to eat away at us.
There’s a verse in the New Testament that says something like, “confess your sins to one another, and you will be healed.” This means that we tell someone we trust that we’ve crossed some moral line, that we need to own up to it, and perhaps make amends or restitution (even if it’s only symbolic). Once we’ve done this, then guilt has served its purpose, and should begin to fade away—even if, sometime in the future, we remember what we did.
Sorrow is the feeling of deep distress caused by loss, disappointment, or other suffering.
It is that feeling of sadness that comes when there is loss: losing a loved one to death or watching a prodigal child wonder. It could be the loss of not being able to tuck a child in to bed at night because of divorce. Sadness comes when a season of our life comes to a close whether that is saying goodbye to a job we have loved, or sending our children to college knowing that they will never need us the same way again. Sorrow comes when we have such high expectations for something in the future and then it never happens. Sadness comes when someone we love disappoints.
Here is some important things to keep in mind when we’re facing a significant loss.
1. Grief & sorrow are real emotions that need to be fully embraced. When you minimize the losses you’ve experienced, it magnifies your pain. Better to face the discomfort head on that to try to convince yourself that what you’re experiencing is really no big deal.
2. The bitter fruit of sorrow is needed for a balanced perspective in life. There are some things we simply will never grasp until we experience deep periods of grief.
3. God heals the wounds of a broken heart. While grieving may last for a season, God wants us to move toward healing.
Let’s always keep this mind, especially during times of deep sadness …
Joy will return. Once a loss is fully grieved, it loses its power over us. When we reach the point of acceptance and healthy resignation, it no longer matters if we remember what happened.