Faith and feelings for far too long have been seen as opposites, enemies. Quoting scriptures like Jeremiah 17:9 Christian leaders have justified that matters if the heart, feelings can’t be trusted and therefore emotions are useless.
"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9
Taking a passage and creating an all out war on feelings has left generations of Christians emotionally bankrupt. This matters because we’re called to be whole and to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 10:27).
Some of the lies, some Christians believe about feelings.
1. Feelings can’t be trusted.
Feelings reveal truth. In the moment you experience a feeling there is something in you to explore in order to gain more insight. A friend makes a comment and I turn up my nose. The action of turning up my nose has a feeling associated with it. What was it? Disagreement? Tension? Curiosity? Our feeling in that moment expresses a truth. To get to that truth though, we must get behind the feeling 1. naming it. Now, there may be several feelings mixed in so take time to give voice to all of them. Next, reflect on the wisdom of that feeling. For example, if you feel angry about something it is possible you value something that is not present. Feelings, when explored, can help us be honest with ourselves.
2. Feelings are fleeting.
In part this is true, however the meaning we associate with this is not. Feelings happen quickly. Within 2 seconds we feel an emotion and in the subsequent seconds we get to decide what we will do with that feeling. Options look like reacting; spout off something not thought out, physically explode with a grunt; scream, throw something, yell, go off etc.. Or do nothing, avoid the feeling — in doing this we think it goes away however unprocessed feelings linger and live on in the body. In fact they build up over time and can manifest —-for me it was in panic attacks.
Ok, so you see that just because feelings are quickly experienced doesn’t mean that can’t have lasting impact either in our bodies or the consequences of a negative reaction. Notice the reaction is negative not the feeling.
3. Feelings are negative.
There are feelings that feel better than others. There are feelings we desire and value over another. Feelings, however, are not positive or negative, they are neutral. We ascribe meaning to them.
In my life this has looked like allowing joy, contentment while avoiding pain, frustration. Now as I practice being curious with my emotions, I seek to make room to “listen” to spectrum of feelings I experience. Sometimes as part of the close of my day I write down a list of feelings I experienced during the day. This keeps me from avoiding and placing them all before me in a caring, curious way. (Next week I’ll share about my personal journal journey to accessing emotions, which came through therapy and may be for some a first or parallel step into greater emotional intelligence.)
4. Faith over feelings
Either/or and hierarchical thinking are ways we can seek to create certainty and rules that we can follow to be sure we’re right and even “on God’s side.” However there are other ways of approaching faith while highlighting its importance. Consider faith AND feelings or faith with feeling or faith inclusive of feelings. How do these feel? Well, to me they feel messy and complex and sometimes even complicated. And I see that as faithful. Some expressions of Christianity have made faith “easy”, checkbox with one right answer. For some time this is a good place to be and later it is a good place to grow from. Our faith grows and evolves, hopefully! And the more you integrate feelings (and the body) into your faith walk and talk the more it becomes less about right and wrong.
5. Jesus cares about faith not feelings.
Have you ever considered the feelings Jesus expresses in scripture? From sadness and grief at the passing of Lazarus along with his own impending death, to the joy when he says let the children come to me. I am intrigued by Jesus’ experience of compassion. Many times he is moved with compassion to act on behalf of another: to heal, to feed, to advocate. Jesus experiences a wide range of emotions. In so doing, we relate to him and he to us. In his humanity, we share being impacted by feelings. Furthermore, Jesus acts on the feelings in ways that bring about justice, healing, forgiveness, peace and love.
Imagine that if we tend to the feelings we experience, we too, have opportunities to create glimpses of the kingdom/reign on earth. In fact, that’s what’s at stake when we believe the lies about feelings - heaven on earth, peace within.
Action Brings Clarity
Which of these lies most resonated with you? Email me
Inquire about an emotional intelligence assessment also known as a leadership report. Schedule a call to discuss this topic in more depth.
Learn more about how EQ can support you in living purposefully in a free workshop on April 2.
God there is so much happening inside of me I don’t always know what to do. help me to be gentle with myself as I explore what it means to have feelings and faith. Teach me how to live integrated. Above all I desire to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. To love my neighbor and to love myself. Thank you for community who are seeking the same. Amen.
© Charity Goodwin, 2023.