Happy 2019 everyone! 2018 was a big year for me. I graduated, started two new jobs, got engaged, and officiated my brother’s wedding. Those were all wonderful moments, but 2018 had plenty of lows. Each one of those highs was accompanied with its fair share of stress. And I expect nothing different in 2019. There will be countless highs, each with an accompanying low. Some things seem predictable like that.
One of the things I value most from 2018 was my growth as a person. I can’t claim any of the credit, that is saved for God, Laurel, family, and friends, I just get to reap the rewards, after enduring all the growing pains. I’m looking forward to all the growing I have to do this year. And for the next few weeks, I want to help jump-start your self-growth for the year!
Improving self-understanding is an important part of life. It helps us interact with others, understand why we act the way we act, and control our reactions. As a former psychology major, I am pro-self-discovery and pro-emotions. Over the next few blog posts, I want us to explore the idea of emotions.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
These next few blog posts will focus on the second greatest commandment: loving your neighbor as yourself. This idea of loving your neighbor is deeply rooted in theology. It is the second of the three relationships that I have mentioned in past blog posts: the social relationship.
God created Adam and Eve in harmony with one another. They were naked before each other but felt no shame. They accepted each other for who the other was. They also accepted themselves for who they were. And because of that, no shame needed to exist.
During the Fall, this harmony between Adam and Eve was broken. The acceptance they felt between each other, and for themselves, was broken. They felt shame, and they wanted to hide themselves.
We still hide ourselves from those around us because we are afraid to be seen, to be known, by others. We are afraid that they won’t accept us for who we are. So we hide behind masks. We paint facades around who we truly are so that we can have a buffer between those we interact with and who we really are.
This facade protects us. It allows us to be whoever we need to be in whatever situation we find ourselves in. If they don’t like our projection of ourselves, then we just paint a new one. Generally speaking, we have learned to change ourselves to fit into our environments. Sometimes we become so good at this that we begin to forget who we really are behind all that paint.
All of this is done in order to avoid feeling pain and sadness and rejection, these emotions that we label as bad. When our facades begin to fail, and people begin to see ‘the real us,’ it can be hard for them to accept it because we don’t accept it ourselves, we might not even remember who it is. We’ve spent all this time hiding who we are because we don’t believe we’re good enough, because, when you boil it down, we don’t love ourselves. And when those ‘bad’ emotions begin to surface, we try to bury them with distractions such as drugs, alcohol, social media, and sex.
The focus of these upcoming posts will be on the last two words of the second greatest commandment: as yourself. The facades we paint over ourselves make it harder to love ourselves. The more we hide from others, the more we hide from ourselves. When you don’t love yourself, it taints how you love those around you.
My goal over the next few weeks is to help start the reversal of all of this. Now, this is a big mess to clean up, so I’m going to begin by focusing on one specific aspect: the emotions. We don’t just paint facades over ourselves, we paint them over our emotions too. Whether they’re emotions we don’t want to face or that we are feeling towards ourselves and we don’t like or that we are feeling towards others and we think we shouldn’t, we hide or run away from these ‘bad’ emotions.
These are the emotions that we are afraid to feel, the emotions that compel us to pretend to be someone else. We are going to learn how to embrace them, how to properly feel them as children of God. As we learn how to feel these emotions, we will learn how to properly express these emotions. We will learn how to express them in ways that restore social relationships (within ourselves and with others) and brings about the Kingdom of God.
We like to group our emotions into categories. The two most common categories are good and bad. We like to think that love and happiness and hope are good while hate and sadness and anxiety are bad. This is easy and clean on paper but confusing and messy in real life. What if this categorization is wrong? What if emotions are neither good nor bad?
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4, 8-11a
There is a time for everything
and a season for every activity under heaven.
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance
. . .
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time.
The writer of Ecclesiastes, the Teacher, plays with the idea of emotions not fitting every circumstance. “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Here, the Teacher is making a case that sometimes we’re sad, sometimes life’s hard and it gets us down, and maybe that’s ok. Other times life is rockin, everything is going our way and we deserve some celebration, and that’s ok. He continues to the emotions of love and hate. Sometimes it’s a time to show love and that’s good. Sometimes it’s a time to show hate and that’s good too.
God, the creator of all things in the heavens and on earth, created us with the ability to feel every emotion known to humanity. Then He looked at us and saw that we were very good. Not that we are good except when we feel this certain emotion. Or that we are good as long as we’re not feeling that certain emotion. God created us to feel everything and that is very good.
But the Teacher in Ecclesiastes hits it right on the nose. It is not good to feel every emotion all the time. And there are sometimes when it’s bad to feel certain emotions. God “has made everything beautiful in its time.”
Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk about what this looks like in our lives. How do we feel emotions in their proper time so that they are beautiful? When is the wrong time to feel the emotions that we generally think of as ‘good’?
One major theme that you will see through the next few weeks is that the emotions and the responses to those emotions are equally important. God created all emotions with the potential to be good or bad, very similar to how all humans have been created with the potential to be good or bad. How we chose to display those emotions, and when we choose to embrace them, are what defines them as good and bad.
Our first emotions next post will be love and hate. I’m excited to begin this journey with you! Please comment with any thoughts, ideas, or questions! I would love to hear what you think!