For Lent, I am giving up emotional shaming.
No. You Don't Have to Be Ashamed of Your Feelings.
With far too much frequency, I catch myself in the moment following an emotional reaction having a second emotional reaction. I get angry about something--some violation, some injustice, some attack on my pride--and a moment later I feel shame about feeling angry.
Anger was my first emotional reaction. An entirely natural and reasonable response to trying things that happen in life.
The second emotion was shame. Shame about being the kind of person who gets angry. Or sad. Or frustrated. Or disgusted. In the quiet of my mind, I say things like, "Stop it. Being sad isn't helping anything!" or "Come on. You're supposed to be stronger than that," or "Idiot. How'd you fall for that AGAIN!"
But I know that emotions are part of how God created me. The limbic system exists to help me understand what is going on within me and in my circumstances. All emotions, even the seemingly irrational or unjustified ones, have something useful to teach me. Even if the lesson is, "I'm taking things too personally" or "I really hate being wrong." So, for Lent, I will stop shaming myself for feeling.
My feelings are data, nothing more. They don't make me bad, or wrong, or flawed. They show I'm alive and interacting with the world. Hopefully, I can learn to listen to the wisdom they carry. I surely won't if my knee-jerk reaction is shame, whether for my feelings or for the feelings of others. When I have feelings, I'm going to do my best to notice them. If I have the time and energy, I'm going to try to understand what this emotional response can teach me.
When I fall into the tendency to shame myself for feeling, I'm going to say to myself, "Stop. Listen. Emotions are not a flaw in God's design. Even what I'm feeling right now."
- Marc Alan Schelske
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