Through various verbal and non-verbal lessons, we have been taught to hide our emotions: “Don’t let them see you sweat.” “Do not cry in front of him.” “Do not let her know she hurt you.” “Keep a steady head.”
This advice is not all bad; emotions need to be released, but timing is important. Anger unleashed on your boss during the Monday morning meeting will not be fruitful. A private, calm meeting in her office is likely to yield better results. Bursting into hysterical tears and wailing in the middle of a quiet restaurant may result in being asked to leave and your dinner companion fainting of embarrassment; but, stepping into your private quarters and releasing your tears until you are spent is therapeutic and necessary.
But, yes, just because haphazardly unleashing our emotions is ill-advised does not mean those emotions should stay bottled; in fact, the contrary is true. Many days, I have gone to God and poured my anger towards others at His feet. No one understands or ministers to us better than our Heavenly Father. Pushing down the emotions He gave us hinders our mental and emotional health. The people you admire who are truly flourishing have probably learned positive ways to express their emotions.
She Modeled it Well
My mentor, Miss Betty, never burst into tears in front of me; though, there were times her eyes would become glassy. I recall tears forming once when a friend and I sang God Loves You in her kitchen. Once, I caught her wiping tears away after she returned home from a prayer meeting. She was careful to maintain a proper show of emotions with me as I was not her peer, but (in many ways) her mentee. However, I know she cried in her prayer closet and she never tried to deny it.
On our recent trip to Denver, my emotions came to a breaking point and tears began pouring from my eyes. It was late and Eric had a conference the next day, so I slipped out of bed, made my way into the bathroom, and let the tears flow. Choking them back was not necessary. They needed to be free. My heart needed to be emptied.
I admit that some days I do not feel like crying. My tears annoy me, especially when they re-appear over the same situations. In the moment, I would rather stuff them down and ignore them. Feeling can hurt! Dealing with the same disappointments is exhausting and can feel pointless.
And truly, sometimes it is exhausting, but never pointless. Our emotions are not the enemy. God gave them to us because we need them. We are made in His image and He too shows emotion.
Thinking about it soberly, I do not know where I would be without the ability to empty myself through writing, talking with friends, crying, and praying. Dealing with emotions well is not always pleasant, but so good for us in the long run. Good for us and good for our relationships. (Eric would not want to be within seven states of me if I did not have a good cry once in a while.)
Sometimes I do feel like an emotional weakling when I cry; but, in reality, if I did not let my tears flow, I would probably become weak and sick. Dealing with our emotions honestly is one of the best ways to become the strong, kind, cool people we want to be. It is not only ok to cry – or write, or sing, or punch pillows before bed – it is good.
You can release your emotions while you are in control, or you can let them build and risk them bursting forth later in harmful ways such as screaming damaging words, driving dangerously, or diving into a deep depression.
Our Emotions are a Blessing from God
We have to change our way of thinking. Our emotions are a blessing from God. Tapping into them Biblically brings balance to our lives. Forcing them away and ignoring them does not resolve them, but causes them to mutate and burst. It is okay to cry – really, it is. It does not make us weak. It frees our hearts and minds so we can fully pursue our callings and passions.
God, we thank you for the tears you have given us to shed and for the blessing that comes when we pour them out to You.
“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8, ESV)
“I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.” (Psalms 6:6-9, ESV)
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:21, ESV)
Do you feel free to release your emotions?