Have you ever been in a meeting or event, listening to a public speaker, and a baby begins to babble, cry or laugh? What do you do? I pretend I didn’t hear it, and fight every neuron that wants to turn my head to see the baby. I consciously nod, as if to agree with whatever the speaker is saying to show just how undivided my attention truly is. Truth be told, if the speaker stopped right there and asked what I thought of the last point, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell I could tell him. Why is that?
Emotion is more powerful than logic. A speaker who has honed their speech, and carefully choreographed their approach cannot compete with a baby experiencing raw, unrehearsed emotion. It’s not really a bad thing (unless it’s your baby), more of a fact of life. God made it this way.
Flag or the flag pole? Ship or the sail?
Emotions are important. They let us know what is important to us. They are what move us but shouldn’t be what give us direction. A flag may dance in the wind, but the pole anchors it in place. We can feel like the flag at times, blown about by the circumstances of life, but we are the pole, planted in place; affected by the wind, but secure in a firm foundation. Consider the sail ship, harnessing the wind, but directed by will, not the weather. Tacking to use the power of the wind takes skill, but once mastered is the power that allowed mankind to explore the globe with nothing more than a few sails and know how.
Your emotions are strong, but they are not stronger than you; they only seem that way at times. Here are some helpful hints and some common pitfalls.
Fear/anxiety transforming to anger
Fear is a vulnerable emotion. It makes us feel helpless and out of control. The opposite of helpless is aggressive. If you find yourself or someone you care about irritable and short tempered, consider that it may be anxiety masquerading as hostility. Fear has no useful transformation outside of motivating us to pay attention. If I don’t “worry” about paying my electricity bill, the lights go out. Anxiety causes us to prioritize information so we can organize our lives. Beyond organization, it becomes an unhelpful force. Don’t let it drive your ship or turn to hostility.
Turn grief to empathy
All too often when experiencing loss, we can feel like things will never “be normal” again. Being normal isn’t possible, but being changed by grief can be beautiful. Learning to care for others is the hallmark of someone who looks like Jesus. Seek to love others and truly care for them; avoid finding ways to talk about your difficulty. A grieving person is rarely encouraged by hearing about your hardships, but are comforted when they know they are not alone. It’s a fine line I suppose, but a good rule of thumb is that if you say “I” more than “you”, you might be too self focused.
Turn excitement to a practical plan
Have you ever decided to take on a new project around the house based on something you saw on TV? or decided you’re going to go “off grid” after reading an article about composting? You just bumped up against passion. God gave us passion to motivate change, but change comes in steps, and not usually in leaps. The stages of change are like packing a parachute; you can skip steps, but I don’t recommend it. The stages move in a linear direction: precontemplation, contemplation, planning, action, and maintenance. Use excitement to move you to the next step, don’t expect it to give you the end result.
If you feel overwhelmed by emotion, I hope these tips have been helpful. Remember that God made emotions, and they have a purpose. Any time they don’t seem to fit, consider the flag pole. Remember our firm foundation is Christ. If you feel overwhelmed and sinking, consider the sail ship and seek wisdom to tack your way through. Finally, if your ship feels it is going down, remember the one who calms the storm.