What do we do with negative emotions? Each of us, depending on our view of the world, define different emotions as negative or positive. We all feel anger, frustration, sadness, and fear. All of these emotions are valuable at different times. We feel each of them but we may not allow ourselves to experience them.
We tend to judge the emotions we are most ashamed of, negatively. Some think that sadness or fear is a sign of weakness. Others think frustration or anger is too strong or overbearing. Being completely consumed by an emotion isn’t healthy but allowing it to teach us is a path toward greater self-awareness.
My old tendency was to figure out the right way to live within my emotions. I often chided myself for feeling an emotion I perceived as negative. I would push it away, which isn’t easy or healthy, yet we all do it. We can pretend to be happy or content but, at least for me, that means pushing away all thoughts of sadness or frustration.
In a recent experience, I felt an inner hesitation as someone offered an alternative way of doing something. I noticed a pause within myself and immediately judged it as pride, my own need to do things my way. I knew neither way mattered but something didn’t settle right in this alternative way. This presented a choice for me. Do I judge my own inner reaction as right or wrong? Do I follow it or go against it? Or, do I listen to what this inner reaction has to teach me?
Thanks to a good friend’s advice, I decided to listen and allow God to show me something new. A few weeks ago, I introduced Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite Nun from the 16th Century. She shared an image of a wax seal as a metaphor for spiritual formation. The wax is unable to impress the seal upon itself or even to soften itself. The only thing the wax can do is to remain where it is placed. This is the invitation as we listen to ourselves and God in the midst of our own inner journey.
This means I need to refrain from assigning meaning to my feelings in a given situation. We do this by giving them value, either good or bad. Honestly, our motivations are a mixture of both. In this particular situation, I could have judged my own inner struggle as being from pride and reject it. However, the invitation was to take this struggle openly to God to discover what it had to teach me. What I discovered was a desire to actually show up as myself in the situation from a place of confidence instead of condemnation.
I don’t know about you, but my tendency is to limit myself to fit into expectations, either mine or another’s. The invitation is to walk in freedom, the way God has designed. Listening to what was going on in my own heart and holding what I found there to God was a means of discovering a trueness that surpassed my judgment of myself. This seems more like a journey of discovery and brings grace to the conversation; acceptance and belonging along the way.
Instead of judging our hearts as we walk along, we are invited to trust God is always for us. From this place, we are invited into a face-to-face journey of relationship. When we can rest in our own belovedness within God’s gaze, we can vulnerably hold whatever goes on in our inner selves to God, to see what God sees. If we know we can trust God to love us regardless, then we can safely show up in relationship with God. This gives us a deepening freedom to accept ourselves and all the others around us.
This isn’t easy - but I believe God gently and continually shows us more of God’s character as we allow a deepening relationship. We do our part very imperfectly and God calls us beloved. God is always for us, regardless!
Hello, I'm Kathi Gatlin. Thanks for stopping by!