Chico was one of the smallest dogs I had ever met, about the size of an overgrown mouse. Chico, however, made up for his size by his aggressive behaviour. He was the chief terroriser of the neighbourhood. Walk past his house at your own risk. He would come hurtling down the road yapping his head off and snapping at your ankles. I have seen big beefy builder types who could split concrete blocks with a single disgruntled stare run for their lives when Chico approached. The mailman when delivering mail brought a whole new perspective on fast first-class delivery. It was not only pedestrians but any passer-by on any mode of transport that got Chico’s attention. He particularly relished people on bicycles as he could keep up with them while trying to grab the socks on people’s ankles as they peddled furiously away. Numerous cyclists had toppled off their bikes. It was not unknown for Chico to tackle even ten-ton trucks. Alas he has gone to that great dog kennel in the sky. I wonder how many angels have had to dodge his attentions as frisbee-like he ran off with their halos.
Chico had at his doggy level learned the power of emotions. In his case he had become most adept in the use of anger to compensate for his miniscule size. Anger motivated and drove him to be top-dog.
We all experience emotions and know how powerfully these can affect our lives. Looking at many photographs of church groupings the predominant emotion that seems to be conveyed is one of beaming smiles of joy. Indeed, there seems to be an assumption that if you are not joyful there is something very wrong with you in some circles.
The reality on most people’s lives is often very different than is conveyed in many church meetings. Christians like everybody else experience a full range of emotions including joy, sorrow, anger and humiliation to name but a few. Those who are struggling emotionally can feel that there is something wrong since they are not continually rejoicing. They may be having difficulties in their work place that result in them being angry in dealing with situations. People can feel a real failure. Family life often can be stormy and running the whole range of emotions. One of the reasons why Soap Operas are so popular is because many in the audience can identify with the raw emotions in the plots.
The Bible has a lot more to say about emotions than we tend to hear commented on. Correct Biblical teaching on emotions will set many people free from the sense of guilt and separation from others that an imbalanced view that we should be happy all the time brings. There seem to be two assumptions that often are linked to some religious groupings. One assumption is that the spiritual Christian is above all the emotional turmoil that surrounds his daily life. He stands stoic like ready to dispense his higher wisdom to all the emotional wrecks around him. The other extreme is the view that the Christian goes joyfully through his days spreading beaming smiles in his wake. The T.V. gives yet another view of Christians and they often are portrayed as tormented individuals who are slowly self-destructing in secret.
It is time for us to get real about what we truly feel. The meaning of hypocrisy is to act out a part. The root of the word comes from the Greek theatre where actors wore masks. Whilst we should not bare our hearts to everybody we should be able to be honest with ourselves and those we trust about what we really feel.
It is important that we are emotionally honest because:
- We are called to be people who live according to the truth. Emotional honesty is one application of this principle (1 John 1:5-7)15 This is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie and don’t tell the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanses us from all sin..
- The first step to us changing and become more comfortable with our emotions is to acknowledge what these truly are to ourselves. It is living in the truth that sets us free (John 8:31, 32)231 Jesus therefore said to those Jews who had believed him, “If you remain in my word, then you are truly my disciples. 32 You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”.
- If we give a false impression to others then we can be unhelpful to them. They may be trying to emulate the way we are living and an unreal presentation of our emotional life can create unrealistic expectations which they will fail to reach (1 Timothy 4:12)312 Let no man despise your youth; but be an example to those who believe, in word, in your way of life, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity..
- We are told to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15)415 Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.. This can only be done on the basis of emotional integrity.
- God knows everything about us including our emotional life. He totally accepts us knowing this because the basis of our acceptance is through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:6)56 to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he freely gave us favor in the Beloved.. We can be emotionally honest with God. When we are not we are only fooling ourselves.
- When we express our emotions honestly to others we need to remember to be kind (Colossians 4:6)66 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one..
- Jesus did not reveal all that was in His heart to everyone. He was wise when dealing with people. He did not give ammunition for His enemies to use against Him. This is a counter-balancing principle that we should also bear in mind when we seek to have emotional integrity (Matthew 10:16)716 “Behold, I send you out as sheep among wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. . Therefore we bare our hearts to ourselves and those we trust but are more careful with others.
- The next time we are greeted by someone asking, “How are you?” we need to think carefully how we should answer this.
1. What do you really think about your emotions and the way you handle them?
2. How accurately does this reflect what God thinks about this?
3. Would you say you are basically happy or sad?