I’ve always said I live my life on an emotional landscape.
In other words, I have lots and lots of feelings in response to, well, just about anything.
Sometimes, these feelings are ones that hurt. During the years of my marriage when I carried a hurting heart, I believed that my husband was responsible for most of those hurt feelings. They dominated our marriage for many years.
I fall into the camp that says all feelings are valid. They are real, and they usually make sense given a person’s unique set of experiences in life.
However, when we allow ourselves to dwell on hurt feelings too long or when we let those feelings interfere with our Christian growth, sin can set in.
In order to help our hearts heal, we must figure out how to deal with those feelings in a way that allows growth rather than builds barriers in our marriages.
Own Your Feelings
One of the things I absolutely love about Psalms is the real emotions expressed there. Some of the feelings are raw and difficult ones—but the Psalmist doesn’t shy away from them at all. He claims them as his own even as he takes them to God.
When we are wrapped up in our hurt, we can usually identify the things that led us to those feelings. We can pinpoint which conversations, which interactions, and which decisions contributed to the hurt.
If your husband has done or said something hurtful, he should apologize. However, that doesn’t mean you should wait around to receive his apology to deal with your feelings.
You are the one who has to do the work of dealing with your feelings.
We do ourselves a disservice when we pretend our feelings are other than what they are. Just like the Psalmist, we can begin by recognizing what our feeling are. Whether I feel jealous, unloved, threatened, or unworthy, I begin my acknowledging what I am feeling.
When I experience difficult emotions, rather than set them aside, I acknowledge what they are. They give me a window into my heart (more about that coming up). Dwelling on my hurt isn’t healthy, but neither is it healthy to pretend that my hurt isn’t real.
Learning to own my feelings did two important things for me. First, acknowledging my own feelings provided the emotional validation I had been expecting from my husband. I was claiming an emotion as a valid and understandable feeling.
Second, it was empowering to stop waiting for my husband to undo the feelings I thought he’d caused. Waiting around for him to make the first move, I had no idea if things were ever going to get better. This was fairly distressing and made the hurt seem even worse. Taking charge of my healing helped me move forward
When I took responsibility for having my own feelings, I reclaimed control over my emotional life.
Learn from Your Feelings
Feelings open a window into our hearts. Difficult feelings often point to deeper issues that need our attention.
A while ago, I experienced feelings of jealousy when a friend experienced a wonderful thing that could have been orchestrated only by God. Instead of telling myself not to feel jealous (see how I was owning my feelings there?), I asked God to show me my true pain.
He did. Behind the jealousy wasn’t a desire for the friend’s wonderful thing but a fear that I wasn’t truly lovable. By paying attention to my feelings, I was able to recognize one of my deeper heart hurts that I’d neglected for a while, and it had absolutely nothing to do with my friend. The feelings of jealousy pointed me to work I needed to do with God.
The feelings illuminated that which needed to be brought into the light.
Sin grows in the dark; bringing a hidden hurt where it is visible allows us to work past the feelings and prevent sinful roots from growing into our hearts.
Manage Your Feelings
Proverbs is full of reminders not to let our emotions rule our actions:
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Proverbs 29:11
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. Proverbs 16.32
Lysa Terkeurst has put it this way, “Feelings are indicators, not dictators.”
For many years, I let my feelings dictate everything—my words, my actions, and my marriage. As a result, my husband felt he was walking around on eggshells to avoid upsetting me.
God has given me so much more than my feelings to guide my words and actions. He has given me his Word to show me what he wants from me and what is right. He has given me a mind to think, learn, and discern. He has given me a free will that allows me to be intentional about what I say and do. He has given me great truths that can combat many of the difficult feelings I may have.
When I let my feelings be in control, they cloud over all these other things God has given to me.
Feelings should illuminate what needs to be seen, not cast shadows over God’s other gifts.
Managing your feelings doesn’t mean that you set your feelings aside and pretend they don’t exist. In remembering that your feelings are not the only thing to drive your decisions, it becomes easier respond to things in a mature manner.
Use God’s full banquet of gifts to guide you.
Helping Our Hearts Heal
The emotional hurt I experienced in our marriage was a long-lasting and constant frustration for both my husband and me. Big Guy would often ask me why I couldn’t just let it all go. Sometimes I wished I could do just that—but I didn’t have a clue how to do that. I couldn’t just snap my fingers and be done with the feelings.
Learning to deal with my feelings was the thing that helped me learn to let go of the power my feelings had over me.
- Owning my feelings gave me a sense of control—not over our marriage, but over myself. Whereas I’d often felt like my feelings were running away with me and were unpredictable, claiming them as my feelings that were a response to other things helped me feel less controlled by my emotional life.
- Learning from my feelings led me to see the deeper wounds beneath my hurt. As I took the deep stuff to God, it eased all the hurt that those wounds had caused—and it made me much less susceptible to hurt feelings going forward.
- Managing my feelings enabled me to keep my emotions from creating a storm. Staying calm prevents my reaction from exacerbating the situation and erecting a barrier between my husband and me.
My feelings do much that is good in my life and in my marriage. After all, God designed me as an emotionally vibrant woman—but he designed me as so much more than that, too.
Learning to deal with my feelings has brought much healing to me and my marriage.
I still live my life on an emotional landscape—but my husband and I are no longer trapped there.
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