Our youngest 12-year-old girl, Gigi, is starting to style and primp her hair and is becoming very selective about her clothes. You know what that means? Boys and relationships are right around the corner. Remember the days when you started to experience new feelings that you weren’t actually aware of? Even when every behavior indicated you had a crush on someone, you totally denied it. And though all your friends could tell, you usually didn’t realize you had a crush until weeks later. Feelings are so complicated!
Most of us have some degree of trouble admitting our true feelings and expressing them, especially if we are struggling with life-interfering problems. But throughout the Bible, God encourages us to be in touch with our feelings and to know them. Then, once we access our feelings, He doesn’t want us to keep them hidden inside. Jesus set an example for us: He had emotions and he expressed them. He cried. He got angry. He was sad. He was concerned and sweated blood in the garden before His arrest.
We often hide the way we feel behind a defense to keep our real selves from showing through. Inside we may feel angry, or fearful or sad. But we hide those feelings by joking … or acting superior … looking important … using sarcastic comments … being silent … deflecting attention to something else … anesthetizing it with substances or food … or employing some other defense. We often try to cover our sadness with laughter, but when the laughter ends, the hurt or loss remains. Eventually, hidden shame and sadness are roadblocks to hope and healing.
An important tip: Hiding our feelings gives them dysfunctional control over our lives. Unexpressed anger, fear, hurt, unforgiveness, bitterness, humiliation, and guilt have a destructive influence on everything we do. Inside we have only a small box to hold these feelings … and it can overflow quickly. When it does, those feelings bleed out and ooze into our real everyday functioning. That is a fact.
Your choice is very simple. 1: Express your feelings as they happen, in ways that are controllable, functional, measured, healthy, respectful, and useful to you while they match the situation. Or 2: while you are trying to hold in your feelings they will start to overflow from that little container you have inside and ooze out in ways that are uncontrollable, dysfunctional, and random, sabotaging your efforts to deal with the situation at hand and hold you back in your psychological and spiritual growth pursuits. Unfortunately, this last scenario is what usually happens, reinforcing the false belief that expressing our feelings is destructive. So we falsely learn to be afraid of our having feelings, expressing feelings, or letting others express theirs.
Today, ask yourself this question: has your “cover-up” helped? Or have you learned first-hand that when the laughter ends, the grief remains? Your suppressed feelings will come back to undermine your happiness and relationships. Admitting your negative feelings (in the right way) can be a turning point for you. Be honest with yourself … and with God … and then with a friend. Being real will open the door for healing. Journaling your feelings as they come up is a good step towards having better command over your emotions. Expressing or suppressing is your decision, so choose well.
Dear Father God, I’ve been hiding my feelings for a long time, but I know now it’s time to be honest. Help me to be real. Help me to have a better awareness of my feelings and more control in expressing them. Set me free from their grip. Help me, not be afraid of them, but to see them as Your gift to me. They are my warning system, and a very good warning system. Soothe me and increase my awareness of Your soothing. Help me to share my real feelings with my loved ones, and give me restraint as I express them. I pray in the name of the One whom You sent to be my perfect emotional role model, Jesus Christ – and all God’s children say – AMEN!
Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when laughter ends, the grief remains. Proverbs 14:13
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Ephesians 4:26,27