A while ago, I read a book by Lysa Terkeurst called “UnGlued”. It’s basically about how to act in the midst of all our emotions and how we should handle them. I learnt that I’m a stuffer, repressing my emotions, not really processing them at all and pretending that they’re not there. Examples of this would be blinking as many times as possible whilst breathing in to stop myself from crying, being silent instead of speaking up as I’d be aware of the risk that I could become emotional, becoming irritable, sarcastic and moody. I saw “being emotional” as a criticism and a weakness, not a strength. Lysa talks about how your emotions are signals for how you feel about a situation but they shouldn’t control the outcome.
“Feelings should be indicators, not dictators.”
After reading it, I thought “yes, I should probably get more in touch with my emotions” and then carried on with living my life without much thought.
A little later, I read the story of David’s children, Tamar, Amnon and Absalom in 2 Samuel 13. It’s the awful story of how Amnon raped his sister Tamar. When Absalom (their brother) found out, he told Tamar to keep quiet and hated Amnon. He basically told her to keep it secret and pretend nothing happened and then never said another word, good or bad, at all to Amnon. Reading this, Absalom was probably a stuffer too – keeping quiet, avoiding talking about the elephant in the room, never bringing up the fact that his brother had assaulted his sister.
When their father David found out, he was furious but didn’t do anything. He was fuming but pretended that nothing had happened. Overwhelming feelings cannot be stuffed. These suppressed emotions will eventually ruin you. Absalom went on to murder his brother Amnon and there was more heartbreak, division and tragedy within this family.
My tendency is to neglect all my emotions and see very little value in them. They’re inconvenient and annoying, to minimise and deny what I feel. I’m all “let’s get on and do stuff instead of thinking about our feelings”. But we were created to be emotional beings. To feel is to be human. By stuffing away our emotions we have, as Thomas Merton wrote,
‘merely deadened our humanity, instead of setting it free to develop richly, in all its capacities, under the influence of grace.’”
At the moment, I’m part of a group reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero. I am learning that emotions have value. They allow us to love God, to love others and to love ourselves. Whilst I will never be the girl who enjoys crying in front of people, or who can expressively and emotionally communicate her passion and delights, I am begin to notice how I feel. I’m learning what emotion is driving an action. I’m allowing an emotion to linger to explore why I’m experiencing it. Emotions are not a weakness – I’m putting away that box that I relegate my emotions to. The glory of God is a human who is fully alive – and that means emotionally alive too.