Frustrated with how my day was going and my three-year-old son’s continuous crying, I quickly snapped, “Charlie, please stop crying!”
“Mom, you told me it’s okay to feel,” echoed in between sobs.
Convicted by my own child, who quickly reminded me of a little piece of wisdom I shared with him not even a few weeks prior, I was quickly humbled and sent into a quiet moment with Jesus.
Have you ever been told “It’s okay to feel?” Do you think it’s okay to feel? Do you ever find yourself trying to suppress emotions because you’re annoyed with them or because you’ve been taught emotions are chaotic things we need to hush? I’m a woman, Latina, mom, and a feeler. What does all of that mean? Thanks to gender, genetics, personality type, and hormones, I have all kinds of feelings ebbing and flowing constantly from the moment I wake up to the moment I shut my eyes. And if I’m being honest, most days they annoy me. I find myself annoyed with my own emotions of anger, frustration, and sadness.
At other times I find myself overwhelmed by other people’s emotions: by my husband’s apathy, my son’s dramatic flailing, my mother’s anxiety, my friends’ complaining, etc. Most of my life I have also been told what Queen Elsa has repeated: “Conceal, don’t feel.” But did that ever take care of anything?
I have struggled with crippling anxiety and depression that prevented me from engaging in healthy relationships or doing well in school. I have struggled with raging anger that produced so much shame in my life as a self-proclaimed Christian. I have struggled with other feelings of isolation, rejection, abandonment, hurt, betrayal – you name it.
So often we avoid negative emotions like the plague, we try to self-medicate with television, social media, shopping, alcohol, unhealthy relationships, or any other drugs of choice. We learn quickly how to distract ourselves to not feel because some emotions produce memories that feel too painful to explore. Sometimes we tell ourselves we just don’t have the time. We minimize, hide, shove, and cover up any trace of negative emotion to appear strong, or like a “good” Christian. We tell ourselves we don’t want to hurt others, or others won’t love us if they “really knew,” so we keep from being honest and vulnerable with ourselves and others, dreading being alone with our thoughts and emotions.
If this sounds painfully familiar to you, you’re not alone! It’s okay to feel. Did you know Jesus felt things? Did you know the Bible was full of feelers! There were people who felt betrayed, wronged, misunderstood, and hurt. There were people who tore their clothes out of deep anguish. There were people who laughed, cried, felt bitterness, remorse, abandonment, joy, breakthrough, and so much more. So often we forget this.
Somewhere in our lives we are consciously or unconsciously taught the lie that being vulnerable is bad, and unacceptable, and the only appropriate response for the grocery clerk’s “How are you today” is “good.” Did you know “good” is NOT a feeling? Yet how often is that our response? As a society we have learned and continue to teach others, “feelings are bad.” I’m here to tell you that’s a lie the enemy wants you to believe because there is tremendous power in knowing, exploring, and owning your feelings!
The Bible tells us there’s a time for all things, there’s a time to weep, to laugh, to mourn, to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4), to empathize with others who weep and rejoice (Romans 12:15). It even tells us “be angry” and how we can experience anger that doesn’t produce sin (Ephesians 4:26). Because the problems are not in our emotions, it’s what we do with those emotions. It’s not a sin to be angry or feel sadness, it’s what we do out of those places when we do not take the time to explore and ask God, “Lord show me what’s going on in my heart, where is this coming from” and allowing Him to heal our wounds. It’s when we hide, cover up, or suppress emotions that the enemy comes to work in darkness. So I spoke life to my three-year-old, I speak life to you today. It’s okay to feel! Take a deep breath, and next time you come across the temptation of shoving away an emotion, instead choose to open your heart to God and ask Him to show you where it’s coming from. Partner with Him in healing anything that needs to be healed. Instead of looking at emotions as disturbances or annoyances, look to them as opportunities to connect with the lover of your soul and growing in a deeper relationship with God. You were created to feel.
M E E T T H I S W O M A N O F F A I T H
Jess Rios is a Cuban, Californian-Texan, that currently resides in Bryan, TX with her husband Carlos, and her two sons. In addition to raising two boys, Jess is working on her masters in counseling and enjoys leading people into deeper freedom through volunteering with Freedom Prayer Brazos Valley. She loves the Brazos Valley community and has a huge heart for seeing women walk in the fullness that God has called them.
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