As I listened to my counselor’s advice, I wondered, Do I DARE feel all the feels?
It was the end of our session, and she was encouraging me to slow down and do just that. When I felt an emotion, instead of pushing past it like I’ve almost always done, she encouraged me to pause and evaluate with these questions:
- Is this a worthy feeling that deserves acknowledgement? (As opposed to desires/emotions that spring from sin.)
- If so, what legitimate need does that feeling expose?
- How can I meet that need or who can help me meet that need?
What a great filter!
Here’s the example we’d been discussing. That morning I came awake in a flood of anxiety. I already felt behind on my to-do list, and my feet hadn’t even hit the floor. She encouraged me to process the emotion of anxiety like this:
- Pause and identify the emotion: anxiety and overwhelm
- Be curious and ask, Is this a worthy and legitimate emotion? In this case the answer was “yes.” I had a lot on my plate that day.
- Pause and assess how the need could be met. One of the things I could do for myself was to allow myself to move undone tasks to the next day’s list. Imperfect progress is still progress! I could also ask for help. I have great ministry partners, but sometimes I put too much pressure on myself because “I don’t want to be a burden.” Asking for help is a new and necessary skill for me.
Implementing these steps requires discipline because they’re new for me. It’s easy to default to my old ways of rushing by and stuffing down, but those are harmful habits that I’m determined to break.
We do damage when we don’t dare to feel all the feels.
But as I thought through all the “negative emotions” that might need to be run through this new set of questions, I realized that when I feel strongly, it’s often in response to harrowing news from outside of my own circumstances. The morning news-roundups that I read is full of issues that bring on all the feelings: another school shooting, worldwide suffering of the poor in the latest heat-wave, more racial division… the list could go on and on, and I’m sure you have your own issues with heartache to add.
So… I want to add one more question to the list of how we process our emotions:
When I feel all the feels, I pause and assess, How could I meet a need?
Esther has been an example for me in this, and in Esther: Seeing Our Invisible God in an Uncertain World, I wrote:
Let’s pause here a moment and consider what Esther’s temptations might have been as she faced harrowing news. It would have been natural for her to want to escape into the luxuries that a palace would offer– food, a plush bed to sleep her days way in, or the lull of entertainment. In her protected environment, it would have been easy for her to numb or escape. She could have sent the messengers away like the king and closed her windows to the wailing outside.
But she didn’t In sharp contrast the the king, Esther engaged with people’s pain instead of hiding from it. Truly extraordinary.
Esther met the need in her setting by leveraging her influence and speaking up, but there are lots of ways to meet needs including prayer, acts of service, giving financially, or giving of our time.
Sometimes God will call me to ask for help, providing someone to meet my need. Other times, He uses my emotions as a catalyst for righteous action, moving me to meet a need. Either way, it’s a beautiful new way for me to process my “negative” emotions. I’m being stretched, and in the process, I’m learning and growing.
Talk Back to Me: Where are you in this process? Are you comfortable with daring to feel all the feels? What helps you to lean into and process difficult or painful emotions?
Will You Help Me to Meet a Need?
For those who have been around here for awhile, you may have heard me say that half of my heart lives in India. God has flooded my heart with a supernatural love for the people there.
A message that I received last week brought up all the feels– a rush of joy from hearing from a dear friend and a squeeze of pain that she’s struggling.
The message was from Rita, the co-founder and principal of Agape School in Kolkata. One of the many reasons I love her is because she gave me a beautiful real-life picture of four spiritual generations. Rita’s on the far left, and each successive woman has brought the next to Life. GOALS right before our eyes!
Rita wrote to tell me of the dire toll that the COVID crisis has taken on the school. Because the school was forced to close for almost two years, their enrollment has dropped by half. As a result, Rita and the leaders haven’t been able to pay the teachers for four months. These teachers are faithful, but their commitment is beginning to waver because of their own family needs.
Will you help me to help them? We’ll bring the school children back in the process. No matter whether you choose one, two or all three ways to help, I value you as you stand with me!
- Pray– This is always our first resort, not the last, so it’s extremely important. Let’s all commit to pray for Rita and Agape School, a place where the Light is coming into the dark and devastating poverty of a slum in Kolkata. God is the faithful Provider, so let’s pray that His provision comes forth.
- Share– You can share this need with others who will stand with us in prayer and potentially have the ability to help financially. Prayerfully consider asking one or two of your friends to join us in supporting Rita and Agape School.
- Give– If you feel directed by God to help financially and have the ability to give, you can join your gift with my own. We’re in this together, and any amount helps! All giving will be done through an American non-profit that I love and trust that has been supporting the work of the school for over a decade, Encouraging Words. Rita and Encouraging Words are a powerful, trustworthy team!
If you’d prefer to write a check, please put “Agape School fund” in the memo line, and mail it to: Encouraging Words, PO Box 975, Graham, NC 27253.
And just for fun, here are more pictures of my time in Kolkata at Agape. 🙂