In my post a few months ago, “You do not have my consent!” I quoted Warren Buffet and his thoughts on having an emotional response to everything that is said to you. After some recent experiences and research, I kinda disagree with him.
On Wednesday, I was on a conference call for the weight loss program I am following, Weight Loss, God’s Way. Like many people, I often allow my feelings to direct my eating habits. I tend to eat more when I am experiencing negative feelings. Others also eat more when experiencing positive feelings as well. The discussion led me to think this one important questions: Can we really trust our feelings?
The short answer is no. Please let me continue before you start yelling and arguing with me (if that was your intent).
We can’t trust our feelings but we can trust our emotions. There is a difference between the two. Emotions are instinctual, a base response to our circumstances, good or bad. Emotions are fear, anger, joy, surprise, pain and lust. Emotions are a biochemical reaction that alters our physical state. We have no control over it.
But you do have complete control over your feelings. Feelings are a completely mental exercise. Feelings are the conscious interpretation of our emotions. They are based on our previous experiences, beliefs and memories. Feelings cannot be measured because they are different for everyone. How I feel grief will be different than you.
Going back to Warren Buffet’s quote, he is incorrect if saying that if our emotions control us than everyone can control us. We do not have control over our emotions. If someone offends us, we will have an emotional response. It is a matter of whether or not we will express our feelings in association with that emotion.
When we see someone who might be considered a drama queen, one might think that person cannot control their emotions. We might see someone who is very stoic, stone-faced and think they are cold-hearted and have no emotions. In the first case, the person may need to control how they express their feelings. In the second case, the person may not know how to express their feelings.
Back in 2004, when the movie Ladder 49 was released, I remember seeing it at the theatre with two of my sisters. If you have not seen the movie, it is an emotional roller coaster. By the end of the movie we all had very different reactions. I was bawling my eyes out with tears streaming down my face. One sister had watery eyes and a few tears had been released. The other sister did not show her feelings. I joked with her saying it was because she was cold-hearted. In reality, she just has better control over her feelings.
When you read the Bible, it is also an emotional roller coaster. There are many emotions and feelings expressed throughout. The first emotion expressed is happiness/joy. God looked at what He had created, liked what He saw and declared, “It is good!” When I hear that I imagine God standing proudly, with a big smile on His face. He liked what He had done. He was happy.
Unfortunately, it did not take long for Him to to go the other end of the emotional scale. A few chapters later, Adam and Eve make bad decisions that put all man-kind in jeopardy. God is not happy. I can’t say for sure that He was angry (examples of His full expression of anger come later in the Bible) but He was certainly displeased and disciplined Adam, Eve and the snake.
Now let’s look at Jesus. He was very skilled at controlling his feelings. I am quite sure He felt the full gamut of emotions while on earth. He was happy to be around children. Content to be alone in prayer with His Father. He was sad when He learned of Lazarus’ death.
There is one specific time though when Jesus did not control His feelings. He walked into the temple and saw how people were using the temple as a place of business as opposed to the sacred place it was. He became angry and over-turned the vendors’ tables. See Matthew 21:12-13.
Admittedly, I am a little confused as to whether this outburst would be classified as sin, especially from the perfect man, who was sinless. This was a very earthly behaviour, an act of the flesh. In Galatians 5, Paul talks about the desires of the flesh as well as the fruits of the Spirit. It specifically states, ” that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.Galatians 5:16-24
We also know that Jesus was not the only one who expressed acts of the flesh. The Old Testament, specifically, shares many stories including anger, murder, adultery, lust, selfish ambition, hatred, envy and fear. Many people who committed these acts and expressions of negative emotions and feelings were still used for God’s purpose.
In addition, the Bible gives us much advice as to how we really should handle our emotions and feelings.
Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Romans 12:2 – Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Proverbs 16:32 – Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. (ESV)
James 1:19-20 – My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
In relation to the emotions regarding sadness and feelings of grief, we are given this advice:
Ecclesiastes 3:4 – a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.
What I am saying is this: go ahead and express the positive emotions and feelings. These emotions build relationships and draw people together. Sharing your joy helps you and others.
With negative emotions and feelings, such as anger, bitterness, and crankiness, be careful how/when they are expressed. Uncontrolled feelings, as Buffet implies, can lead to being controlled and manipulated by others, I feel he is correct in that. Negative outbursts can lead to hurting yourself and those around you.
Controlled expressions of anger and frustration and grief builds trust within relationships. It gives one the opportunity to be vulnerable and honest with those around them. Sharing feelings associated with the emotions of sadness, pain, and fear, in a controlled way can also build relationships and bring people together. It can also provide healing, just as Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.Matthew 5:4
What do you do when you are overwhelmed by emotions or feeling you can’t control? Do you let them go like Jesus did at the temple or do you retain them and keep them to yourself? Share with me below.
For you that have the song going through your head because of the title, here it is: