Good and Bad Emotions?   21 comments

After dozens of conversations I started to understand that Kimberly believed feelings are neither good nor bad, they just are.  “Excuse me, but haven’t you read in the Scriptures all the evil that comes from anger?”  I respond.

“Well,” she says, “if God himself gets angry, it can’t be all bad.”

“Ah, yes, but everyone knows there is ‘righteous’ anger and ‘unrighteous’ anger.  If you start feeling the bad kind, you are sinning, and must stop feeling that way.  You can get angry for the wrong reasons or for the right reasons, and you should not get angry for the wrong reasons, so if you do, you have to repent.”  She clearly did not believe the childhood morality I was taught.

“So,” she responded, “if emotions can be immoral, it means you choose them or refuse them.  Is that how your emotions work?  Because my feelings come without thinking, often without warning.”

“No,” I reply, “you can’t control your initial emotional reactions, but you can choose to hold onto them or to let them go.”

“And how do you let them go?”

“You tell yourself they are wrong and think of all the reasons why you shouldn’t feel that way, and you can talk yourself out of those feelings.”

“So, Jani, basically you should all over your feelings… you beat down your emotions with the law?”

Long pause as I think about this.  I decided long ago that motivating myself with shame is a bad idea.  Is that what I was doing?  Wasn’t I just listening to my conscience, examining myself, and repenting?  Should I not feel guilty for wrong feelings and stop myself from having them?  I knew I didn’t have total control over my emotions, but I had enough control to force out the bad ones. I had done it many times.

“I guess I agree with you that my motivation should not be legalistic.  So maybe I should work from the motivation of wanting good relationships, and everyone knows anger pushes people apart.”

She responded, “In my family, politeness was a much greater threat to true connection than anger.  I have often seen anger bring people closer together because it forces honest communication and each person ends up telling the other person how they really feel.  What do you think makes anger bad?”

“Well, you don’t like me getting angry at you!”

“It is not your anger that is a problem for me, but your blaming me.”  Okay this REALLY does not make sense.  If she was not to blame, why would I get angry?  Getting angry over an innocent behavior is just wrong.  How can you possibly separate anger from blame?  If there is anger, someone is to blame!  How could she say that all feelings are legitimate?

“So you think there is nothing wrong with being angry as hell at an innocent person?” I ask.

“Well, what do you mean by ‘wrong’?” she responds.  “If you mean ‘are some emotions immoral,’ then I would say no.  If you mean ‘are my emotions accurate or correct,’ I would say it depends on what you are measuring.  Feelings are unreliable interpreters of someone else’s behavior (your rage does not prove that I’ve done something wrong).  But feelings are great interpreters of your heart if you listen to them carefully.  Emotions always tell you something about yourself rather than about the other person.”

Wow, that’s really a revelation to me.  She is delinking my negative feelings from her culpability, a bond I thought inseparable.  I could only imagine my anger being justified if she were truly at fault, but she is insisting that my feelings of anger are legitimate in themselves, even if she has done nothing wrong, nothing “deserving” of anger.  They are legitimate for the very reason that they do not measure her misconduct… they simply alert me to what is going on in my heart, and do so quite accurately.  If I merely shove my anger away or talk it down without considering what it is telling me, I can gain nothing from it.

After mulling this over for awhile I ask, “Okay, so maybe emotions are not evil in themselves and are just a gauge of my heart, but aren’t some of them a gauge of my bad heart?  Doesn’t my anger or sadness or fear point to something that should not be in my heart, something for which I am guilty?  And isn’t it possible to hold on to or nurse these negative feelings and so keep myself under their power?  And doesn’t it matter how I express my feelings?”  I was determined to prove my “negative” feelings were bad in some way!


Posted August 5, 2011 by janathangrace in Personal

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21 responses to “Good and Bad Emotions?

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  1. If you get up at night to get a drink of water and you run into the end of the bed and hit your toe so hard that you break it –you begin the grief process.
    First you say to yourself –oh I cant believe it! I just can’t believe it! (Stage one: Denial) I am suppose to play golf tomorrow with the boss and the new client-now what am I going to do? You are suffering a loss.

    Every time we suffer a loss we go through the grief process.

    It can be as great as the loss of a loved one or a stumped toe. Now you are experiencing anger –oh this REALLY makes me mad-I had plans-oh MAN this makes me MAD! (Stage 2: ANGER) almost always unless you are a saint – enters BLAME –you can blame the bed-(REALLY? Is it the beds fault?) you can blame your wife-she must have moved the bed last time she cleaned! You can blame yourself-after blame comes bargaining (Stage 3)-if I had just turned on the light-if I had just not eaten those tacos that made me so thirsty-if she could just put things back where they belong (still blaming the wife) and then acceptance(stage 4) –you call the Boss on the way to the ER –he’s not happy (it’s the middle of the night) and explain you will not be playing golf in the morning-now you can truly accept this situation or you can pout –circle back around –say I just cant BELIEVE THIS!!! THIS REALLY STINKS! There goes my promotion and why in the world cant she stop moving the bed every time she cleans the room!!!

    YOU have suffered a loss.
    YOU are having emotions.

    NOW, are these emotions wrong? Is the anger wrong? Is looking for someone or something to blame wrong? I don’t think so.

    I personally think where we go WRONG is at the point when we refuse to allow acceptance to take place.

    Continuing to HANG ON to the anger and continuing to BLAME can snow ball into a disaster. For example

    The last time she did the laundry she didn’t put your work shirts up right away and they were a tad wrinkled –you had to iron, it made you late, you rushed through the hall and you spilled your coffee on your wrinkled and now soiled shirt-enter co-worker- he made fun of you and you suffered a loss of self esteem and of all places in the work place!

    So now with your broken toe you can “Hang on” and pile some more blame on top of what you were hanging onto from last week. Enter resentment.

    Now more than likely this guy who has trouble with acceptance learned this skill a long time ago. He more than likely learned it way before he married his love.
    He more than likely LEARNED it from a parent; He learned it at a very young age.
    (Or so the experts say)

    Back to acceptance.

    What is it?

    For me personally –acceptance in my life begins with gratitude. If I am aware of Gods involvement in my life-the theory that things happen for a reason and that I have something to learn from EVERY situation and EACH happening then I can more easily “ACCEPT” the co-workers ridicule and the timing of the promotion. Well-Thank God he has a wife who cleans and does laundry-for that matter – Thank God that the washer works and that there is a few bucks for coffee at the over priced shop on the corner –how convenient that it is on the way to work-ok ok

    It what twisted world is ANYONE so grateful???

    We are talking toes and coffee here-that’s easy

    If we were talking cancer, loss of home, sick babies, jailed adolescent children-ok not so easy-yet the principle applies.

    Most of us reading this probably fall somewhere in between.

    Back to the anger –you have to OWN it to GET OVER IT –I had a therapist tell me one time that as long as you are playing the BLAME GAME you are STUCK!!!

    You have a broken toe, It is not the beds fault –the BED IS NOT MAKING YOU MAD –
    As a matter a fact I will go so far as to say that anytime you say to another person “oh you really make me mad” you are incorrect –NO ONE CAN MAKE YOU MAD- no one “MAKES” you anything- your “MAD” comes from YOU! It is your personal emotion. If someone cuts you off in traffic-and you blame him or her for your anger that you are feeling –you are DEAD WRONG!
    When they turned their car in front of yours it became a situation that YOU did not like –YOU lost control of your present state-YOU allowed your emotions to run free and YOU spoke words that would make a sailor blush-do you really want to choose to spend the rest of the evening stewing over how inconsiderate and stupid OTHER people are??? Who’s wasting their life on that?? Who’s being really really stupid!
    OK so they should not have pulled out in front of you-so WHAT? People do things wrong everyday-and two wrongs don’t make you in the right.

    Ok so we are talking traffic-easy
    Lets talk marriage –not so easy.

    You live with this person day in day out . Maybe the situation is where she knows how to push your buttons and she is indeed doing it on purpose-her mother really screwed her up and now you have to live with it –oh and “she really makes you MAD!”

    Wrong again.
    The frustrations you are feeling this week will be one thing and (GOD FORBID) but if she died next week –I am afraid you would walk out your door and “FEEL” frustrations with the neighbor who never returned the rake he borrowed.
    And why is that? THAT is because when your tube gets squeezed by traffic, a broken toe, or a belligerent wife …

    What comes OUT of you is what is INSIDE OF YOU!

    Your circumstance did not put the anger into your tube –it was already there –you have it there building up from past refusals of acceptance, lack of gratitude and resentment –probably over things that have absolutely nothing to do with your wife, your toe or the Lady who was talking on her cell phone and not paying attention to her driving.

    Tune in next time for
    “My tube is full-and it ain’t good”
    Highly critical childhood environments and the invalidation of emotions.

    • Wow!

      Are you the fly on the wall in my house?

      You just described my passive aggressive husband…

      the blame game…

      pfftt… ya…I got a blog for ‘you’ to read..


  2. Sorry-I forgot to acknowledge myself-I am “Anonymous August 5 @ 12:43 pm”

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Beth! It was a long time before I could accept the fact that my feelings came from inside of me (as you say), because I blamed myself for these feelings, so the more I tried to “own” my feelings, the worse I felt about myself. I bet there are others out there who have experienced this as well.

  4. Know this blog is public and share very personal things because in all the years I have lived tried to exist as if nothing happened which did nothing for me, or do I know if this was the best response for those who abused me. Also, maintained an attitude that everything was fine because of a fear of reprisal for standing up against this. God may have told me not to stand because I would have received more infliction of equal or greater injuries,. Have been told to LET IT GO! Tried to lay it at God’s feet and not pick it back up but denial, fear, mistrust maintained their position in any case. God must have hated me, or so I imagined when I thought this was my fault. Also tried to handle things how Jesus would have if He had been me and did not murder the violators that have never even received justice for what they did to me as a consequence of my deep pain and anger, Have even tried to give it to Jesus as I try to live and realized I do not even have enough power to manage life on life’s terms in addition to this baggage I have no idea how to get rid of – pain that won’t go away…. How do I let go of something that should never have been put on me in the first place? Have heard people say, “oh, look what happened to Jesus….your situation couldv’e been worse too.” I have less understanding for what God allowed a three year old to be molested by family members for? Someone tells me, “so you can help other’s who have been molested.” That doesn’t answer why God allowed it to happen to me, or for me to now know how I am to get over it. What was the necessity (purpose) of this violation, and emotional abuse and invalidation that happened in addition? I have asked myself, “was this for me to understand more fully what Jesus experienced in his beating and crucifixion?” Did my actions help the violators to repent? .Senseless and extremely difficult to accept existence..

    Hopefully, this will be taken away from me.

    • So sorry for you, Anonymous. It is so very hard to trust God when life is full of senseless pain. Why he leaves the world in such a terrible mess and allows so many innocent people to suffer tragically (such as the children in Somalia) makes little sense to those who suffer or those who feel deeply for the suffering of others. There is no good answer for this. Even though we may appreciate all that has happened once we know God’s plan, that doesn’t help much when we are in the middle of pain. May you find support for your struggles.

  5. “How do I let go of something that should never have been put on me in the first place?”
    I (personally) dont think you do. I was verbally abused daily for 12 years by my christian husband-when I made the difficult decision to divorce I was thrown out of my church, lost ALL my friends and fellowship and was immediately stamped with the stamp of the Big D on my head resulting in much stereotypical judgement.
    I believe that divorce is a sin. I also believed that the abuse had gotten to the point where the well being(physically) of my children and myself was at risk. I was under the guidance of a Godly counselor with whom I had meet with faithfully for six years. When he told me I should divorce I gave it “one more year” I did this four times. When the decision was made I cried on my stomach- face in the floor for three weeks-after which I had difficulty getting up off the couch for the next three years. I still feel the pain. My adult children still feel the pain. unfair, unreal.
    I suffered a loss. a HUGE loss. I experienced the stages of grief-over and over. Acceptance came slowly.
    God had to build back what had been destroyed. It has only been recently that I have felt as though I have any worth at all. I have almost stopped blaming myself.
    Will it ever “go away”? no I dont think so but I accept the fact that it happen, that it makes me feel sick, that it was unfair, that I morn for what could have been, that I am envious when I see my peers celebrating 25 and 30 years of marriage, and on and on -at the same time -I refuse to be robbed of one more day of joy-I refuse to feel sorry for myself or continue to be a victim-I desire to say each day -I appreciate today! I appreciate that I will not be called dirty names today-I will not have to repair holes in drywall today-I will not have to pack up and move my babies to a safe place today-
    will it ever go away? not while I am breathing –
    but I do believe it has enabled me to experience an intimate relationship with Jesus that I may have NEVER experienced otherwise-when I needed him -he was there EVERY time! In the darkest moments he was present and when I made the decision to divorce-one day while out for one of my long walks-He tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear-I am here -I will never leave -I am all you need.

    • Thanks for sharing so honestly, Beth! So few are able to do that. I’m glad you are no longer in the heart-crushing situation.

    • “”I appreciate that I will not be called dirty names today-I will not have to repair holes in drywall today”

      Beth, I don’t know what it takes to join your blog or if you even allow people to join…

      I am in what was your situation.. only for over a year though…

      we are getting along ‘right now’…but when we don’t and I try to defend myself from the screaming, rage and verbal abuse..bad bad verbal abuse…and then he packs and leaves and runs to his parents… Until I ask him to come home..

      I am a co-dependent enabler. Not that you were… I’m just saying I so seriously can relate to you Beth.


  6. I did it again! sorry- Anonymous Beth

  7. No offense, but I plan to remain anonymous on here.

  8. (your rage does not prove that I’ve done something wrong)…

    I am stealing this.

    I am married to a person that has rage issues.

    …bad ones 😥

    • I’m sorry for you, Stella. That is a terrible ordeal. I’m sorry for your husband as well. I would guess he has some deep shame issues that feed his rage. No one who rages at others is happy with themselves.

  9. I don’t get it..

    He has everything a man could ever want. The entire dang list! I don’t understand it.

    Only child…spoiled. Parents ‘basically’ good people.

    Deep shame…I’m the only one he has ever laid a hand on (several times over a year ago)

    He blames ‘me’…for everything. He’s never sorry…unable to show remorse… passive aggressive…

    thanks for listening… I’m at work…I guess I needed to spill.. just reading the dialogue between you and beth…

    and then think about what I’ve recently written in my blog…


  10. Stella-please feel free to email me

  11. Pingback: As I Was Saying… « Janathan Grace Reflections

  12. BETH!

    I just seen that you gave me your email here! Had I known that…

    I don’t get on here too often although I will always stop back. I’m just learning my way around WP and seen that I could come back and read comments to my comments. HA HA!

    Stop by my blog Beth for updates and do write.

    Although things aren’t ‘good’ today…I have no time to write it out.

    Glad someones reaching out though… 😉


  13. Pingback: Should Faith Control Emotions? « Janathan Grace Reflections

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