The dog days of winter will thankfully be ending soon. Some of you have already made summer reservations, started looking at options, or are just wishing you were in the warm sun somewhere. No matter how you imagine summer, a refreshing pool is a necessity. Whether you are cooling off, exercising, playing some family games, or just relaxing, pools are great focal points for cool memories. If you went south this winter, you know exactly what I mean.
Have you ever tried to hold a large inflated toy under water? It’s really hard work. It almost can’t be done because the air-filled toy wants to rise to the surface. Unless you have pressure on all points of the inflatable, which is impossible with only two hands, the areas left unopposed will quickly push to the surface.
Unfortunately, we play this same game with our feelings, trying to hold them below the surface. When we stuff our feelings, it is like trying to hold an inflatable toy under water. Many times, we work even harder to keep our true feelings out of view. By doing this, we build walls around our real selves and around our problems.
We often think walls are protective, but these walls are destructive to the psychological and spiritual growth for which we strive. These self-constructed walls cause us to isolate ourselves from other people … and especially from God. Walls also hide us from the truth about a problem that has a hold on us. The walls we build are called defense mechanisms. They can be helpful, but when they’re misused, they actually do more harm. Defenses can take many forms: rationalization, humor, blame, denial. Have you ever said something like “What I did isn’t so bad,” or “You don’t understand the pressure I’m under,” or “She yelled first,” or “It’s in the past. Let’s move on.” I bet some of those sound familiar.
We’ve all used defenses like these to cover the truth. Understanding where and how our feelings play into our decision-making system is usually a mystery to us. Because we are afraid and uneducated about our emotions, we find many ways to hide from them. But God and Jesus expressed many emotions, ranging from joy to jealousy. So, all of our feelings must serve a purpose and should not be pushed down.
When we hide behind defenses, we are attempting to hide the truth about ourselves and our situations … from God … from other people … even from ourselves. We are also blinding ourselves from the truth of God’s Word. Yet, our only lasting answer is in the truth … because the truth will set us free from our fears and our walls.
Today, try to identify a feeling you push down and hide from others. Ask yourself, “Why?” What do you fear would happen if you exposed that feeling to others? Assess the benefits of these walls … walls that you hoped would defend you … walls that in reality are blocking your road to freedom. It’s important to recognize those walls and begin to tear them down. But remember, you can’t tear them down all at once. Building them was a process, and tearing them down is too. It’s done by being honest with God, with yourself, and with others (but in a Godly way). It’s done by learning to trust the truth of the Bible more than your feelings. Our curriculum and topical workshops on emotions will help you understand and utilize your emotions wisely. Stuffing emotions or expressing them in healthy ways is your decision, so choose well.
Dear Father God, I realize I’ve been trying to hide the truth by building walls around myself. I’ve rationalized. I’ve pointed the finger at others. I’ve denied. But the truth is that I need Your help. Help me to be honest with You, with others … and with myself. Help me to depend on the truth of Your Word more than on my feelings. Help me to tear down the walls. I pray this and all prayers through the One You sent to help me remove my defenses, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without protection. Proverbs 25:28