Two weeks ago, I suggested that our emotions are not negative or positive as we have been taught. Emotions can be comfortable or uncomfortable, and sometimes our most intensely uncomfortable emotions motivate us to act, just as Martin Luther King, Jr. did with his anger over the segregation, discrimination and mistreatment of African Americans. This can be true of emotions we have traditionally thought of as positive as well. Take excitement for example. Perhaps you’ve just gotten a new job and you are so excited you can’t sit still or focus on anything else. You simply must share your excitement with someone or you are in danger of bursting! Not only must you tell someone, you must celebrate, so you call your spouse and plan a special family dinner. Until you’ve shared your excitement with those you love, your excitement makes you uncomfortable, right? In the case of MLK, Jr., there were hundreds of thousands of people who were angry and even reacted violently to his actions, but hopefully you agree that he acted in a manner that honored God and showed love for others. That is the ultimate goal as we examine our emotions - to recognize them as signals and motivators to better love God and others as we are commanded in Mark 12:29-31.
Are there biblical examples of this? Yes! All we need to do is study the life of Jesus to see beautiful examples of how emotions motivated his actions to love God and others. In future posts, we are going to look at several times Jesus displayed intense emotions, including when he wept, when he had compassion on the crowds, and when he overturned the tables in the temple (yes, even then, he was acting out of love for God and others!). For now, let’s apply some practical tips. In the previous post, I mentioned three questions to ask yourself and your children as you come across intense or uncomfortable emotions. Let’s unpack those questions a bit.
What am I feeling right now? This may be a more complicated question than we realize. All the confusing messages we receive about our emotions leave us lacking in the emotional intelligence department. That’s why learning to identify emotions accurately is the first step. I highly recommend Gloria Willcox’s feelings wheel, which you can access here. For fun family games that build emotional intelligence, stay tuned for information on the YouTube channel I’ll be releasing soon!
What thoughts am I thinking that are causing these feelings? We may be tempted to think that our emotions cause our thoughts, but the opposite is actually true. Taking our thoughts captive by writing them down and, if necessary, replacing them with what God says is true can actually change our emotions. Being scattered, short-sighted humans means sometimes we have to capture the same thoughts over and over again, but eventually we can have victory over recurring thoughts that are causing our emotions to run rampant.
What does God want me to do with these feelings? Once you’ve identified your emotions and taken captive the thoughts causing them, you can ask how you can use them to love God and others better. Are you feeling angry because someone you love did or said something that hurt you? How can you speak the truth to them in love? Are you grieving a loss? How can you ask others to grieve with you? Are you anticipating something wonderful? How can you invite others to celebrate with you?
Learning to understand our emotions and use them for God’s glory and the good of others takes practice. We have to constantly remind ourselves and our kids, it’s okay to feel how you feel, it’s what you do with those feelings that matters. When we practice this together, we build a community of emotionally intelligent warriors, ready to fight for the Lord. For more help with this, you can subscribe to download my free Take Those Thoughts Captive worksheet. If you’re already a subscriber, message me and I’ll email it to you!
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