“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
―Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
When it comes to emotions, mine camp near the surface of my heart. Just the titles of certain songs cause me to tear up. A baby’s cry triggers nostalgia. Hearing about injustice, abuse, and neglect bring about sadness and anger.
Such emotions are a gift (notwithstanding the difficulty in carrying on an intelligent conversation as tears of frustration track down flushed cheeks). They greatly enrich our lives and move us to action.
However, letting feelings of the heart be the sole compass to our actions is asking for trouble. When left unmanaged, our emotions can lead us down destructive pathways: guiding us to isolation, harmful relationships, or hurtful actions.
Not only have I experienced firsthand the harmful effects of following my unchecked emotions, but God speaks directly to the deceitfulness and wickedness of the heart.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
“For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies.” (Matthew 15:19)
What then can be done? How are we to respond to heartache, frustration, confusion, anger, jealousy, guilt, pride, even love?
In a world full of dramatic and traumatic events, how are we to manage our reactions?
In a previous post, “Five Strategies for Managing Surface Emotions,” I list several steps for managing our emotions. Here they are again:
- Remember, you were made with feelings. And being in the image of God, that cannot be bad. (Scripture chronicles many feelings expressed by Jesus, including anger, love, and sadness.) The problem doesn’t lie with having feelings, but in how we express them. So embrace the emotional you.
- Get in the habit of putting yourself in emotional time out. (Counting to 10 is a great strategy for adults as well as children.) This allows space to gain perspective and prevents a “knee jerk” reaction. There have been times when I’ve been sure I responded correctly in the heat of the moment, only to see the error of my reactions later.
- Spend time in prayer. Ask for God’s perspective. His is always true.
- Identify what triggers your intense responses. Knowing and planning for these moments can help you temper the “eruption.”
- Extend yourself some grace—always. The Lord does. Realize our emotions hold immense power. It will take time to learn to respond in a measured way when those feelings are engaged—but so worth the effort.
All the above steps are valid and practical ways to manage our emotions. However, in retrospect, I’d move number 3 to the first step and add to it “and steep yourself daily in the Word.” Because…
In order for our emotions to be the blessings God intends them to be, we have to govern them with His truth. [←Tweet this.]
The Word of God is the most powerful tool in managing our emotions. God’s truth transforms our hearts and tempers our feelings, bringing them in alignment with His will. [←Tweet this.]
As I was finishing up the first rendition of this post, a technical glitch caused me to lose the entire thing. Needless to say my feelings rose quickly to the surface. I had to use several of the above steps, including remembering God’s promises of peace and hope (Jeremiah 29:11-12; John 16:33), to gain a proper perspective and effectively write it again.
Although reacting to our feelings comes naturally for most of us, being at the mercy of our unchecked heart is never a good thing. In order to use and enjoy our emotions, we need to soak in God’s Word and let His truth guide our actions.
As you continue on this adventure of your blessed life, may you experience the glory of a wise and discerning heart.
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (Proverbs 18:15)
“Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 23:12)
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
And my new favorite:
“My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.” (Proverbs 4:20-22)
Reflections: Which emotions do you struggle most with managing? Are there additional steps on managing emotions you’d add to mine? I’d love to hear your thoughts; just comment below.
This is one of many stories on hope, healing, and finding our voice posted and linked up today on Jo Ann Fore’s blog. They are written by bloggers incredibly excited about Jo Ann’s new book, When A Woman Finds Her Voice: Overcoming Life’s Hurts & Using Your Story to Make a Difference, set to release this month. This week’s topic is “Taming Unhealthy Emotions.”
To read more about Jo Ann’s book click HERE. I know you’ll love these inspiring stories! Click the button below to read all of them.
Also, check out the “When A Woman Finds Her Voice” Pledge. With God’s help, you can find your voice and use it to help others and glorify Him. Be encouraged to do just that by signing this free pledge. When you do, you’ll receive a beautiful printable copy to frame. (Be sure to follow all the steps to sign and receive your Pledge.)