5 Christlike Criteria for When We Express Our Feelings to Others
Note from Bob: You’re reading Part 6 of a 6-part blog mini-series on emotions. For Part 1, read Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. For Part 2, read Why Do We Feel What We Feel? For Part 3, read Emotions: Gone Bad and Mad. For Part 4, read Biblical and Unbiblical Ways to Handle Our Feelings. For Part 5, read 4 Principles for Handling Our Emotions Maturely.
How and When We Can Use Our Emotions to Minister to Others
Jesus modeled a cardinal principle of emotional maturity when he purposely expressed his feelings to others in order to minister to them. The original language of Mark 3:5 is clear.
“He chose to look around with angry glances, stopping at each one of them” (author’s paraphrase).
Jesus made a volitional choice to express his emotional reaction with the goal of ministry.
On what basis did Christ do so? On what basis should we do the same? I believe that we should express our feelings to others only when we can meet the following criteria:
- Five Christlike Criteria for When We Express Our Feelings to Others:
1. When we can answer the question: “How will expressing my feelings increase the potential for the other person’s growth in Christ?”
2. When we have previously established a strong relationship with the other person.
3. When we believe the person has the emotional maturity to handle and benefit from our sharing.
4. When we believe that sharing our feelings has the potential for healing the relationship.
5. When we are under control enough to think through the previous criteria. Or stated another way, we can govern/manage the expression of our emotions.
How and Why We Connect Our Emotions to Deeper Issues of the Heart
Part of being a new creation in Christ means that we have a renewed capacity to honestly experience life in all its grief and hope. We are not ashamed of our emotionality. We don’t consider emotions the “black sheep of the image bearing family.” We don’t hide from our feelings. We are alive to life in all its external ups and downs and internal joys and sorrows. What a reversal from our fallen emotionality where we feared feeling anything deeply, honestly, and ended up living for shallow emotional highs and avoiding personal pain at all cost.
The Bible teaches that mature emotionality connects our emotions to deeper issues of the heart. Emotional maturity should permeate every aspect of our new person in Christ.
1. We Can Connect Our Emotions to Our Spiritual Core: Sooth Our Soul in Our Savior
We can learn to courageously express our feelings to our heavenly Father and to soothe our soul in our Savior. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). According to Peter, we will only be this open and candid about our emotions with our heavenly Father if we believe that He cares for us. Like David, we identify our mood states, but then we also take our emotions to God:
“Why are you downcast within me, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).
2. We Can Connect Our Emotions to Our Relational Core: Empathize with Others
Socially and relationally we can empathize with others, helping them find God’s sustaining comfort and healing hope. We live out Romans 12:15 where we weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. We live out 1 Corinthians 12:26 where if one part of the Body of Christ suffers, we all suffer with it and if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. We live out 2 Corinthians 1 where we comfort others with the comfort we have received from the Comforter.
3. We Can Connect Our Emotions to Our Rational Core: Bring Rationality to Our Emotionality
Rationally, we can bring rationality to our emotionality by understanding with wisdom the causes and nature of our feelings, and by envisioning with spiritual eyes Christlike ways to handle our moods. “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27). Emotional maturity includes experiencing life deeply and acting on our feelings wisely.
4. We Can Connect Our Emotions to Our Volitional Core: Courageously Choose to Use Our Emotions for the Purpose of Ministry
Volitionally, we can consciously and courageously choose to creatively respond to our emotional mood states. We choose to use our emotions for the purpose of ministry. This is exactly what we saw Jesus do in Mark 3. He was acutely aware of what He felt, and chose wisely to express His feelings for the purpose of ministering to others.
For Reflection and Application
We said that “Jesus made a volitional choice to express his emotional reaction with the goal of ministry.” How could this principle guide you as to when or when not to express your feelings to another person? How could the 5 principles above guide you in knowing when to express your feelings?
In light of this 6-part biblical study of Christlike emotions, what will you do differently? How could you grow in greater Christlike emotional maturity based upon these biblical principles?
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