Saturday, 18 December 2010

Get Emotional

Passion. Emotion. Feeling. Zeal. Determination. You can not live the Christ-adoring life without feeling! It begins with a feeling of conviction of sin. It develops as we feel a growing love for God. It intensifies as we are burdened with the heart of God for the lost. Our souls are nourished as we enjoy God's Word daily. We enrich our walk after the Crucified One when we love those in our local church. The tears we cry when one of our own hurts only serves to tender our spirits and broaden our hearts. In calling people to respond to Himself, God urges us not to 'harden our hearts' but to respond to Him with the appropriate sense of feeling. As rational as you might be, you are still supposed to be emotional.

Song 5:4 My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.
You may have heard it (you may have even repeated it)- Love is not a feeling it's an act of the will. This idea paints emotion as a rather cold exercise. It is of course true that loving is an act of the will, but it is obviously a feeling that can be developed. The highest expression of human love is between a husband and his wife. Within this context two people can be completely transparent with each other and come to know each other in a way better than anyone else could ever know them. Added to this they can express their love openly with their words and their bodies that is not for another. But this kind of deep emotional expression comes at a high price. While the highs of this emotional connection are very high, it causes the lows experienced from emotional pain (neglect, betrayal, offence, unkindness) to be all the more painful. This is why it is critical for married couples to continually work at their emotional connection maintenance. Emotional maintenance in a marriage requires Level 4 and 5 talking (Level 1= Cliches, Level 2= Facts, Level 3= Opinions, Level 4= Feelings, Level 5= Needs). It involves apologising, forgiving, enquiring, surrendering, volunteering, and much active listening. This kind of emotional interaction is not for the emotional pip-squeak. And it's worth remembering that a marriage relationship is actually a shadow of the real relationship that all people are called to: a relationship with God. Everything that a marriage involves is meant to point to the real relationship - thus, God is able to emotionally redeem single people into an emotional experience with Himself.

The Old English translations of the Bible talk about being moved in our kidneys or bowels. (Of course today being moved in your bowels means something quite different.) The old expression of being moved in my bowels conveyed the idea of deep-seated emotion. It seems that the Bible does not diminish the importance of our emotions. Indeed, the Psalms celebrate our relationship with God through the grid of human emotions. The Psalmists express ineffable joy at being in the presence of God. They pour out deep sorrow and sadness over injustice and a sense of God's inactivity. They express anger over betrayal. They feel longing. They sing about loneliness.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Matthew 22:37-40
When the Apostle Paul gave the Romans the basis for building a covenant community in Romans 12:9-21, he told them to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those rejoice. This is emotional language. Christians are meant to be emotional with each other. We should laugh, weep, rejoice, get angry, feel happy, feel sad, and learn which, when and how to express them.

If you want more friends, be more emotional! But before you express your emotions unwisely, learn what it means to show sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is feeling for a person. Empathy is feeling with a person. Sympathy says "Ouch" at someone else's pain. Empathy says, "Are you OK? You must be in pain." Both involve emotions. Both are necessary in relationship building. Many competent people who are well organised, gifted at their work, witty, able to make decisions, actually think they are emotionally strong and high in emotional-intelligence. But in reality what they have developed is their ability to sympathise rather than empathise. Sympathy is what we feel whereas empathy is what we feel someone else is experiencing.

If you want to be a better manager, leader, or coordinator of people, learn to empathise. Ask empathetic questions- "How are you?" "When that happened, how did it make you feel?" "I'd be a mess if that happened to me. How did you handle it?" However the person you are talking with responds, to seal the empathy exchange you must listen very carefully for the verbal and non-verbal messages given (look at the person as they talk with you, repeat key details back to them for clarification, invite them to share their emotions). Inviting someone to share their emotions is a powerful exercise.

Dr Henry Cloud, in his book- Integrity, tells of a CEO who was appointed to a newly merged company and brought in the Division managers to discuss the restructuring of the new company. Several of these managers shared how they had recruited team leaders from across the country and were concerned for their futures with the company. The CEO assured them that with the new direction of the company sales of the new product range should generate a better bottom-line enabling the company to actually grow. After the meeting the CEO said to Dr Cloud that he was pleased with how well the meeting went. But Dr Cloud diagreed. The CEO disagreed with Dr Cloud but asked him why he thought that? Dr Cloud told him that he although he had answered the managers correctly he had also dismissed their concerns. The CEO assured that Dr Cloud he did not dismiss them. Dr Cloud said, "Now you're even doing it to me!" In his book, Dr Cloud uses this story to illutrate the difference between just being right and being right and empathising. He goes on to write that the CEO continued this practice with his staff and was dismissed by the Board of Directors within 6 months. Being a leader who cannot empathise is a short-term gig.

The most powerful leaders are the most empathetic leaders. Empathetic leaders don't have to be right, best, or even strong. Their ability to connect emotionally with others is what makes them a greater leader. They not only show emotion, they share emotions. To be a Christian is to be an emotional leader. We feel. We feel for each other. We feel a heavy burden for a lost. We feel the heartbeat of God. We come to church because we feel like it. We worship God because we feel like it. We postpone time with our church-friends to welcome visitors because we feel glad that they have gone to the effort to visit our church. We reach out to the unchurched because we feel that heavy burden for their potentially Christ-less eternal destiny.

Of course, feelings can be created, developed or changed. One of the aspects of feelings not generally understood is how his happens. People sometimes tell their bewildered spouse- "My feelings for you have changed ... I now love someone else ... i have to go with my feelings ... I can't control how I feel ... " But creating, developing or changing your feelings is affected by what you do and what you think. In the marriage exercise, The Love Dare (featured in the movie Fireproof) a spouse who feels their love for their spouse has gone must complete a 40 day program of kindness toward their spouse. As they show kindness they find their feelings change. What you do affects what you think which affects how you feel. In another way, what you think affects what you do which then affects how you feel. Either way, feelings follow actions.

Feelings can be redeemed. Past hurts can be soothed and even healed. New joys can be found. Let God redeem your emotions. Do you feel it?
Father, help us to be more emotional in our devotion to you and our care for others. May we feel Your heartbeat. May we cry Your tears. May we laugh in Your joy. Heal our hurts mend our hearts. Help us to convey Your love and joy to others. Cause us to grow emotionally. Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ps. Andrew


  1. This is what the bible meant when it said to encourage one another. Thank you for your writing. I have learned and will apply it to my way of thinking and demonstrate it towards others as well as encourage them too with it. God bless you.
    Yours in Christ.

  2. Thank you Anna. I appreciate your kind and encouraging words.