The team has lovingly dubbed me the team youth pastor. This came about due in part to my Bible reading, coffee chugging, and worship music playlist. They also noted something about my overall vibe being that of a youth pastor. Anyway, this youth pastor was talking with a teammate about our old youth groups. Remembering all the fun times that I had at youth group, I started flipping through my Bible for some more inspiration for my blog post, and I stumbled across this verse;
"God met me more than halfway; he freed me from my anxious fears." - Psalm 34:4
Scribbled in the margins, I had written;
"Lay down your fear and pick up something else. It's still there, but it isn't stopping you."
Fear, anger, frustration, grief, disgust, disappointment, and shame. We all have experienced these emotions in one way or another. Typically, we would refer to these emotions as “bad emotions.”
I think that our emotions can be extremely valuable teachers, but if left unchecked, they can become things that stand in our way. There is this idea that there are good emotions, like joy, love, and gratitude; likewise, there are bad emotions, like anger, sadness, and frustration. Susan Davis, who is an award-winning Harvard Medical School Psychologist among other things, challenges this idea by stating that, "Emotions are normal. Emotions are beautiful. There's no good or bad emotion." The problem occurs when we refuse to visit our so-called "bad emotions." Instead of disappearing, they sit and brood, building up over time until we explode. Eventually, they become roadblocks to our better selves.
I have a bad habit of trying to ignore those strong emotions and try to brush them off. I would try and push down sadness and bottle it up as if that would help me at all. I'm sure I am not the only one who does that, though. How many times have we bottled up our emotions and let them hold us back? Do we let it stop us in our tracks? If so, it's time to stop that right now.
The idea that if we are just positive our lives will be perfect needs to be dispelled immediately. Countless researchers and philosophers have noted that in order to live a full and joyful life we will have to experience the good and the bad.
Think about a painful experience that you have had. Go ahead and write this down if you want. Maybe it was disappointing your parents, getting heartbroken, getting stood up by your friends, hearing people gossiping about you, getting told no, feeling alone, or not feeling good enough. What emotions did you feel when that happened?
Like we said earlier, our emotions are valuable teachers. Dr. Susan Davis tells us that our emotions signpost our values. They reflect what we care about. For example:
If we get angry when we fail a test we thought was easy, we value achieving goals and learning.
If we are sad when we hear someone telling a lie about us, we value friendship and connection.
If we are mad when we see someone getting bullied, we know that we value justice and kindness.
Go back to that experience that you wrote down and the emotions you felt. What do those emotions teach us about ourselves? What are they signposting for you?
Our emotions signpost our values. We have to take the time to sit with these emotions and learn what they are trying to teach us. Trust me; I was never a fan of all these emotions and vulnerability. When I first watched Brene Brown's Call to Courage on Netflix, I thought it was ridiculous. But as my Past State Officer mentor has taught me, our emotions are powerful tools to learn about ourselves. If we take the time to ask ourselves those hard questions and know about our values, we will become better leaders and better versions of ourselves to unpack the complex emotions.
Our lives, including the good, the bad, and the ugly, are a part of a much broader story at work. Loss, pain, joy, humiliation, grief, gratitude, and excitement are all a part of it. So let's stop bottling up those emotions. I had to learn this the hard way. I tried to engineer a solution where I didn't have to deal with my complicated emotions and I failed miserably. Earlier I wrote, "lay down your fear and pick up something else. It's still there, but it isn't stopping you." Now I challenge you to do the same. Lay down that fear, hate, and frustration. Don't disregard it, don't ignore it, and don't block it out. Our emotions are normal. They are beautiful things. Embrace these emotions. Your future self will thank you.
Owning the emotions,