Feel What You Feel
We woke up to thunder and dark clouds yesterday. The rain came down silently and it felt like a good morning to snuggle. The kids turned on one of their favorites, Song of the Sea on Amazon Prime.
- I am amazed at the beauty and richness of the Gaelic language and culture
- I cry at least once
- I see/notice/learn something new from this layered film
Gaelic fairy tales entwine with real-life pain and sorrow seamlessly and beautifully. This time, I noticed a new theme: the futility of trying to suppress emotions.
A fairy mother cannot bear to see her son grieve over his loss, so she magically drains away his sorrow. But draining the sorrow turns him into stone. She herself struggles with anger, so every time she feels angry, she drains her anger into a jar, and a little more of her body becomes stone.
It’s an interesting story line for a movie, but also an interesting truth in real life: when we try to avoid the full scale of our emotions, we do not succeed in actually avoiding them, but only bring about other negative consequences.
Here are some untruths I think many people believe about emotions:
- We categorize emotions as good and bad, but actually all emotions are created by God and have a healthy purpose in our complex souls.
- Anger is a sign to move toward and confront something that is at odds with our values or needs.
- Grief is a sign to mourn a loss in our lives and receive comfort as we adjust to what is missing.
- Jealousy is a sign to look within and consider what we believe we are missing. We either take action towards that, or grieve the absence and move on.
- Bitterness is a sign that we have layers of anger or grief that have been sealed over time and need to be gently exhumed for the health of our heart.
- Feeling emotions is not sin. Many Christians believe anger is a sin. This is unbiblical and untrue. The confusion comes because of the actions we take based on our emotions. Our actions in anger are often sinful. It’s difficult to practice self-restraint to pray and take our anger to God instead of lashing out at the source, but it’s important to separate the anger itself from the actions we take and realize that the first is not sin. Consider this hypothetical example: I feel jealous of my friend for the fantastic vacation she is taking that my family cannot afford. Now imagine that I act on that jealousy to say unkind things about my friend’s photos because I am jealous. That is sin birthed from jealousy. Now imagine instead that I take that feeling of jealous to the Lord in prayer. I confess it and ask for help. The Lord reminds me that every good and perfect gift is from Him, and He has gifts for me, too. I begin to think of the good things in my life. I consider how I could budget to afford a vacation that fits my family. I come away with renewed enthusiasm to do what I want to do to change the cause of my jealousy. I find that if I’m not yet happy for my friend, I am not longer jealous. The feeling moved me to take actions to ensure that I, too, can enjoy what I was longing for, revealed to me by the jealousy.
- It’s dangerous to try to suppress emotions. In my Psychology of Literature class, I describe emotions as helium balloons inside you. They will keep rising until you figure out how to release them. If you try to suppress them, you are using up valuable emotional energy to constantly push the emotions down. Sometimes they explode because of the pressure. People try to suppress emotions through busyness, alcohol, eating, shopping, and a myriad of others distractions. It doesn’t work. Song of the Sea had the characters turned to stone when they avoided their emotions, and I think it is a pretty good analogy because constantly suppressing your emotions causes you to eventually become numb. This is because you cannot selectively numb emotions. If you numb the anger and grief, you also numb the joy and gratitude.
Watch this movie with your kids/grandkids/spouse. Tell your friends and loved ones to feel what they feel, and help them work through those emotions without suppressing or sinning.
And watch Song of the Sea. It’s beautiful and fun and sad and healing.
Ephesians 4:26: “In your anger, do not sin.”