Totally Emotional

Posted: January 30, 2012 in Spiritual Growth
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When I first married my stoic Viking/Norwegian husband, he was a little overwhelmed by my strong expressions of emotion. At first he thought it was a girl thing, until he had a male boss who was Italian. Then he found out it was definitely an Italian thing! Well, I can’t say I should attribute all of my emotional outbursts on my Italian roots, but Italians are known for their ability to express emotion. For example, Italy is one of the few places on earth that is socially acceptable for men to cry. I love that about my heritage. Truth be told, I have come to embrace the fact that I am an emotional person.

Reading the Bible, I find that Hebrews must have been similar to us Italians, perhaps to an even greater degree. They tore their clothing, they danced triumphantly, and they probably used their hands a lot when they talked.

In Christian circles, we are always talking about keeping our emotions in check. And I think that’s valid. Our emotions can be deceptive and lead us down wrong paths. A person’s anger does not often bring about the righteousness that God desires. However, I wonder if, in an attempt to keep harmful emotions at bay, we have squelched the true emotions God intended us to experience.

I question our American culture that tends to keep emotions at arms distance unless provoked by a ball game, for example. (Not to knock ball games.) Could it be that our stoic attitudes are hurting us as a people more than helping us experience life in its fullness? A fear of emotion itself can so often cause us to recoil from healthy relating to God and to others. Some of the best moments spent in our marriage have been from learning how to experience the gamut of emotions together and come out even better on the other side.

Sometimes we focus so much on the don’ts that we forget the do’s. In Philippians we are told to rejoice in the Lord always. Commanded again for emphasis, “Rejoice!” I have heard that this word rejoice means to spin wildly before the Lord. When was the last time any of us did that?! Or take a simple smile. Did you know that when you smile, your brain cannot help but follow your mouth? Little endorphins are released so that smiling actually changes your outlook on life, be it ever so slightly. Still, when you are pushed to the edge, a smile may be the string to keep you from falling off the edge.

Sad emotions also have their place. The Italian side of my extended family had an old pastime of sitting around singing incredibly sad songs just for the pleasure of crying together. If you’re like my husband, you’re probably thinking this is morbid. And maybe it is. But remember those endorphins? They are also released from a good healthy cry. In the Old Testament, women were actually hired to weep and wail over the passing of a loved one. Perhaps allowing ourselves to feel the depths of sorrow over loss or defeat releases it in a way that our intellect cannot comprehend. I believe that there are prayers that can only be expressed through the groaning of our emotions that words cannot express.

I have heard it said, “Don’t obey your emotions. Do what you know to be true.” This is one level of truth. But let’s take the truth one step further. Intentionally express your emotions to God. Ask him to help you feel what he feels and express it in an appropriate way. Weep when he weeps, laugh when he laughs, rejoice over the things he rejoices in, get angry at what really gets to him. Let him take the reigns on your emotions and enjoy the ride!

  1. Yes, you can feel and even express emotions without ‘obeying’ them. Well written!

  2. Cathy says:

    Yes and yes! Its amazing to me that science and the health care industry is just beginning to research all the great benefits that biblical principles have been teaching us for centuries. I guess some of that is due to new technology being able to prove brain function during positive and negative emotional responses. And the fact that our brains and emotions are inseparable from the rest of our body.

  3. Nancy Winniford says:

    Great blog! So true!

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