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The Gift of Feelings

Do you know the number one complaint I hear from wives who attend seminars I lead on relationships? It's this: they don't know how to communicate effectively with their husbands as their husbands don't share their feelings with them nor do they understand their (the wife's) emotions.

Feelings. Imagine living in a world without them. It would be like "playing a trombone with a stuck slide. Very dull and boring to say the least. And yet, so many of we men were taught from childhood that feelings weren't important. By the time I was five-years-of-age I had learned that "big men don't cry!" By the time I reached my mid-thirties, while I was, to the best of my ability, always "doing the right thing" outwardly, inwardly I felt very dry and empty.

Fortunately, I have long since learned how damaging that teaching is. Feelings are God-given and are a vital part of life. Very recently we were saddened by the tragic death of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and his wife and sister-in-law. One highlight in the midst of all the sorrow related to the Kennedy family was the comment from a radio commentator who quoted an incident in the life of the late Bobby Kennedy, John Jr's uncle. On one occasion when Bobby was just a boy and was crying, one of the Kennedy men said to him, "Don't you know that the Kennedy men don't cry!" to which Bobby answered, "This Kennedy does."

When we bury our negative feelings we can become physically ill, act out in destructive behavior patterns, and damage or even destroy our relationships with the ones we love the most. Or to medicate our pain we can become addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, work or many other addictive behaviors.

Patty, for example, was a young adult who took one of these strange paths. Little by little she became addicted to shopping. Many of her spare hours were spent at the mall. Buying things gave her a temporary lift. She bought clothes, jewelry, and other items she neither needed or used. In time her apartment was crowded with small and large boxes of goods she had never worn. Dissatisfied, she continued to buy more and more, but her addiction failed to bring real happiness. 

Feelings. Imagine living in
a world without them.
It would be like 'playing a
trombone with a stuck slide.'

Sometimes we try to camouflage our deep hurts. But When we hide our grief and tears, where do the tears go?

Dr. Clyde Narramore talks about a group of young people returning from the mission field to enter university in the U.S. As children, a few of them were left in boarding school at a very early age where they were only allowed to cry for three nights when they were first separated from their parents.

"What did you do with your tears after that?" Dr. Clyde asked them. They replied, "We cried in our stomachs!"

That's the sort of thing that makes us physically ill. Sadness and grief, like all pure emotions, are God-given. Tears are God's method to help us "drain the pain." For example, when Jesus' friend Lazarus died, Jesus did a beautiful thing. He wept. And David, the psalmist, wept when he was separated from his dearest friend, Jonathan. Many of his Psalms are an expression of raw emotion.

The point is, when we fail to express our hurt feelings in creative positive ways, we are likely to express them in destructive ways.

When some people are carrying an overload of buried anger, for example, and it gets triggered by some seemingly insignificant incident, they explode and lash out and verbally or physically abuse a loved one. Some even lash out and kill!

Or we can internalize our feelings and implode. That is, we can become very hard, cold and distant from the ones we love the most. We build walls around our heart to protect us from feeling our painful feelingsónot realizing that the same walls we build around our negative feelings also block out our positive emotions of love, joy, peace, wonder and so on. This is what Janet did.

She was bright and finished college without much trouble. But then she began to separate herself from her family and others. Janet only lived 60 miles from her parents who loved her and were concerned about her. But she took many opportunities to keep her distance from them. She installed a phone with an answering service (machine) so she could hear what people were telling her and she would not have to talk with them. Janet actually lived a world of hiding and anonymity. She filled her years with as little contact with the world as she could manage. If Janet wanted to know when her parents would be away from their home, she would contact an acquaintance who lived close to them to get the information without having to talk to her mother and dad. Unfortunately, such behavior is part of daily living of many people.

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All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.