There are two types of people in the world: those who use emojis, and those who don’t. Which are you? I grew up in the era of ‘boys don’t cry’, ‘big girls are brave’, and when the showing emotions was a sign of weakness.
These days, however, expressing emotions have become quite fashionable. It is cool to share how you feel, as long as you use an emoji. Thanks to these little characters, we can now express how we feel with the simple tap of an icon. The full range of human emotion has been conveniently reduced to a set of animated graphics. Perhaps you, like me, have resorted to the ‘thumbs up’ or ‘beating heart’ to reply to a message when you don’t have the time to stop and type a reply, or had an entire conversation with someone without actually using words?
Even with the help of emoticons, emotions must be one of the most misunderstood aspects about being human. And so often as human beings, we just don’t know what to do about the way we feel.
CAN WE CONTROL OUR EMOTIONS?
Feelings and emotions are not bad. They are not embarrassing. They are not to be repressed and ignored. And they are not sinful. Our feelings simply are the realities we experience because we are human. And because we are human, we have no control over how we feel.
How does it make you feel when you read that statement – ‘we have no control over how we feel’? We’ve been taught to control our emotions. Was that a lie?
Research tells us that emotions, different from moods and personality traits, are naturally occurring, instinctive responses within people, designed to get our attention and move us to some form of action. The joy that comes with doing something we love, the fear that rises when we feel at risk, the anger at things not going our way – emotions are the God-given instinctive way we feel as human beings to a particular situation.
What we do have complete control over is what we choose to do in response to our feelings. Our ability to respond is our ‘response-ability’ and lies in what we choose to do regardless of how we feel. We cannot choose how we feel, but we can make choices in response to our emotions.
What are some of the choices you might have made recently, when it comes to responding to your emotions? Have you ever considered how God might be at work in your emotions? Even at work through your emotions in the world?
HELP FROM THE PSALMS
The very best tool available to help us gain insight into understanding our emotions and the kinds of responses available is the book of Psalms in the bible. We know that the Psalms were originally used as the prayer and worship songbook of ancient Israel. When the people gathered for worship, when they prayed, when they needed to find any kind of expression for their faith, they turned to the Psalms. The Psalms are quoted throughout the whole bible. We also use them in our worship, in our liturgy, in our prayers.
Author Ellen Davis, in her book Getting Involved with God says the Psalms are the single best guide to the spiritual life, currently in print today. Eugene Peterson has said in his book Answering God, that everything that a person can possibly feel, experience and say is brought into expression before God in the Psalms.
Because the Psalms are honest. They invite us to be honest too. Davis says they allow for us the possibility of full disclosure with God and enable us to bring into our relationship with God the full range of our feelings that we so often think we have to deal with or get rid of, before we are allowed to speak to God. It is because we can be honest with God about who we are and how we feel, that God is able to work in us.
The point of the Psalms, says Davis, is not to sanctify the shameful, or make us feel better about being sinful. Rather the Psalms teach us that God works in us when we are brave enough to bring ourselves, just as we are, before God. When we open ourselves up to the God who knows us, who made us, who loves us as we are, that is when we become open to the work God wants to do in and through us.
Next time you hit the ‘smiling face’ emoji, or use those handy icons to sum up how you feel, remember God also want to know how we feel and to guide us in our responses.