It took everything in me not to text back. I turned my phone off in vehement protest. I would not let my emotions get the best of me. I would not be that person who was reckless with their words.
I knew my friend’s text meant nothing personal. But as an INFJ and 4 on the Enneagram Test (how scarily accurate are those personality tests, by the way?), I know that my emotions are my kryptonite. Which is why I sometimes have to keep myself in check and make sure that I’m not letting my emotions sit on the throne of my life.
Dear friends, emotions are very important, but we cannot let them rule over us. I know for some of us “feelers” out there, this can be really difficult. But it is one of the most important lessons I have been learning over the past several years.
Learning to master our emotions will grant us wholeness in every area of our lives. After all, we are not defined by our feelings. So how do we know if our emotions have gotten the best of us? Well for starters. . .
1. You’re reacting instead of responding
When my emotions get the best of me, I often find myself reacting (sometimes unnecessarily) in the heat of the moment. Whether it’s receiving a passive-aggressive email from a colleague, or finding the dirty dishes (yet again) left on the kitchen counter, sometimes it’s a lot easier to simply react to a situation and say the first thing that pops into my head.
Jumping to conclusions can be so much easier than demonstrating grace and giving someone the benefit of the doubt. But I am challenging myself to avoid that knee-jerk reaction, and think about how I can respond positively instead of just slinging mud around.
My husband and I have a set of “rules” that we aim to stick to when we have an argument, one of which is, “Don’t start unnecessary fires that need to be put out later on.” In other words, we don’t just say whatever we feel like saying in the moment, or else we’re going to be spending even more time putting out little “fires”—apologizing for the hurtful words we recklessly spat out in a moment of frustration.
Simply reacting may feel like an intuitive response, but understanding that our feelings don’t have to rule our behavior is the first step towards achieving a healthier emotional life. While waiting for the ‘heat’ to die down, sometimes I like to ask Holy Spirit to reveal to me the roots of my emotional reaction. Inviting God into my reactions helps me to work towards a healthier response the next time I get caught up in my emotions.
2. You can’t separate fact from fiction
One thing my counselor taught me is that feelings are not right or wrong, they’re just feelings. Dear friends, while I’m sharing “all the feels” with you, I am also here to tell you that doesn’t mean our feelings can always be trusted. In fact, more often than not, our feelings are lying to us. We find this truth in Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT), which describes the heart as the source of “wickedness”: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
We know that we’re in too deep when feelings begin to trump reality for us. In other words, the moment our feelings have become an idol, and we start to believe them more than what God says about us and what’s true; that’s when we know it’s time to do a little soul-searching. Instead of following my heart (contrary to every Disney plot-line), I know I need to follow Jesus’ example and work out the fruits of the Spirit in my life–that includes self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
3. You feel out of control
Whether it’s throwing a childlike tantrum or withdrawing completely from a situation, our emotions directly affect our thoughts and actions, and sometimes in an unhealthy way.
If you’re reading this, then you obviously have enough emotional intelligence to recognize when your emotions are running high. But for those of us who find controlling our emotions a bit trickier, this is where it’s worth identifying our triggers. Whether it’s FOMO causing us to feel despair while scrolling through Instagram, or simply feeling rejected over the radio silence on the other end of our phones; it’s essential to pinpoint the triggers in our lives that might cause us to spiral. The more we understand our triggers, the quicker we’ll be able to submit them to God and gain control over our emotions.
In this day and age, where our culture is encouraging us to become increasingly transparent and vulnerable about our feelings—which is completely necessary for fostering real relationships—it’s all the more imperative that we learn to live beyond how we feel.
Becoming aware of our own emotions is vital for our personal development; however, we cannot allow our emotions to determine the path we take. We need to ask ourselves: Am I letting my emotions rule over me? Are my feelings directing me down the wrong path? If the answer is yes, we may need to re-evaluate where our emotions sit in the pecking order.
Dear ones, if you find yourself in one of the three points above, don’t worry. I’m right there with you. Emotions are part of what makes us humans. We should not try to suffocate our feelings by burying them deep down, but instead we can bring our emotions before our loving Father, who wants to nurture and challenge us to live out His best for us.
God wants us to surrender every part of our lives to Him, including our emotions. The more we seek God’s guidance in our emotional lives, the more we can grow in discernment about which feelings we can trust and which ones we can nail to the Cross.
So don’t sweat it, we’re all riding this wild emotional ride called life. Ultimately, we’re all on a journey to complete healing and wholeness with Jesus. So say it with me. “Emotions are not King over my life. Nothing in my life is King except Jesus.”