The Question

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I tend to feel things very high and feel things very low. I tend to be a woman of extremes. I feel many times like my life is quite dramatic when others live a more reasonably-paced existence. There are psychological labels that could be applied to my approach to life, and physical explanations for the extreme high/lows I experience. But explanations and definitions aside, there is a question I always face when I feel anything.

"Is it okay if I feel this?"

It's a deep down heart question, one I started asking as a kid when my dad told me I took life too seriously and needed to let things roll off. As I grew older and hit my teen years, I reacted emotionally to absolutely everything as the hormones started rolling. I drove my family nuts, as I remember it, crying every other day over something that was so major to me that they just. didn't. understand.

I've always been pretty sensitive; it's part of who I am. I usually cry easily and feel things very deeply. I struggle deep within myself when I see or hear other women saying that they don't like to be emotional. My question about my own feelings seems answered with a very solid, "no, it's not okay to feel this." I feel that I should be fighting my own emotions, driving myself to a practical, logical point of view, instead of giving place in my heart to feelings that are so absurd to people who don't want to deal with my "drama."

But I am a kinesthetic learner. I learn by experience. I learn through interaction with life. In order to learn anything, especially since I lost my rote memorization abilities to the Lyme disease, I have to respond emotionally, spiritually, even physically to it. I have to be able to interact with my own emotions to learn what they are, to understand what I feel and why I feel it. Simple suppression of my feelings is actually really bad for me; the longer I attempt to suppress something, the more intense it feels.

Pete and I talk often about what it means to be "pure in heart." I think sometimes we take it to mean "holy, unblemished." But if you look at the root from which the phrase is translated, you can see that it actually means "to be poured out." You see, whether it's okay to feel what I feel, I feel it. And I have options about how to deal with it. I can spread it around, vent it, suppress it, hate myself for it, retreat from it - or I can pour it out before God, and let Him help me figure out what to do with it.

Self control is a fruit of the Spirit's work in my life, and it is something I am gaining through this process. Instead of shutting my feelings down out of guilt or a sense of condemnation, I have been learning to engage with them as I take them to God, whose perspective is always so far outside my own small view. I have come to understand that God has incredibly intense feelings (read through the books of the Prophets in the Old Testament), and that my own emotions are a reflection of His image created in me.

God created me with the capacity to feel, because feeling is absolutely necessary to relationship, to trust, to hope, to love. Show me a dispassionate love, and I'll show you a love that isn't like the God who IS Love, whose love for us brought about some pretty dramatic action at the Cross. Talk about lows and highs, from killing the Lamb of God to destroying death at the resurrection!

I'm not so afraid of admitting my own feelings as I used to be. I have learned not to be ashamed of my passion, learned that God is my stay no matter what I am feeling. My emotions are His gift to me so that I can respond with love and real vulnerability in my relationships, so that I can walk in the shoes of another who experiences similar emotions, so that I remember to consider the hearts of others instead of simply writing them off by their actions.

My feelings keep me human, and constantly remind me that I am not God Himself. I think because of my feelings, I understand my own limitations more deeply. Feeling makes me more able to let Him be God to me.

So I guess the answer to my heart question is "yes, it is okay to feel this, but not without Me. Tell Me about it." I'm remembering something about "casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you..."

And that is enough ramble for today. I have a kid on my lap squishing my other kid. And I am feeling annoyed. And this is okay, so long as I don't take it out on her. I know. God's not much about my doing that.


Jessica said...

Correction: I DO think is a personality thing. Lol.

Jessica said...

I wouldn't feel ashamed of being a person who easily emotes. I think some of us don't have major extremes of emotion, and others just don't know how to express the emotion. Personally, I think I'm a little of both. Sometimes I wish I had a little more ability to express my emotions... which is probably why I like to write. I write many things on my blog that it would take a LOT of doing to get me to say out loud. :-p

But anyway... I don't think it's a personality thing and not right or wrong. There are ups and downs to all types of personality. It just depends on how we channel / use / control our emotions. That second-to-last paragraph is excellent. :-)

dancebythelight said...

I think I've been afraid of my feelings. I've always admired being strong and stoic. I've equated being emotional with weakness. But I've grown in that. God's used my relationship with my husband and children to help me expand my ability to feel. I do feel things strongly, but quietly and deeply. Like Jessica, I really only express it in my writing. My feelings are not something I'm even capable of talking about at times.

It's all about balance, which ever way one's personality tends to go, and I think all of us tend to one side or the other and that's okay. Sometimes I wonder if it's okay that I don't go up and down emotionally like so many other people, women especially. It's one way I don't feel I can relate so much with other women because it's just not me. Not even at "that time of the month." But that's okay too. I don't need to become who I'm not or "fake it".

It's so interesting how we are all created! :)

Becky Thompson said...

Kelly, thanks so much for this post. You don't know it, but you helped me understand my oldest daughter a little bit better today. See, she's a lot like you - a person who feels things deeply - emotionally. And as someone who does also, to some level, but not as's hard to relate.

So thank you for being open about yourself. You helped me and you didn't even know it. :)

ellen said...

Thanks for this post! I think about this alot as a parent. It is very easy to disallow the feelings when you are trying to teach a child self-control. I have a friend who once told me that she was only allowed to feel happy as a child. I don't want that for my children. Both my husband and I want to encourage our children to be able to name what they are feeling. We want to model to them how to deal with those feelings. You desribed this perfectly when you said, "yes, it is okay to feel this, but not without Me."

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