Thursday, August 23, 2012

Negotiating the Emotional Pilgrimage

“... do not give the devil a foothold.”
~Ephesians 4:27 (NIV)
Emotional destinations are milestones on the pilgrimage of life. Some are good, like arriving at a settling beachside retreat, but some are tumultuous, like episodes of loss, the misinterpretations of life events, or other encounters of the unexpected.
Some emotions are of the tumultuous variety, and are at times of no benefit to us.
Managing the self in the emotional frame is a task we’re all given. It’s a God-anointed task that makes us feel exhilarated at times. At other times we can seriously question whether we even belong here.
There are two broad tasks in the realm of interacting wisely with our emotions: 1) allowing the emotions to arrive; and, 2) allowing them to remain if they’re safe and ensuring they leave if they’re not safe.
When Emotions Arrive
Beyond the many forms and practices of denial, when we feel too overwhelmed or we’re unaware, for example, we have the task of allowing our emotions space to arrive; for assimilation, to see what they present on face value.
Whilst it takes a good degree of courage in accepting the negative emotions, our courage to face our fears is rewarded handsomely. We begin to eventually see ourselves from a fairer perspective.
Receiving our emotions as they arrive is the skill of plain honest sight; to take the incoming body of knowledge as it presents. It’s best that when we open ourselves emotionally, that we also grace ourselves with the resources necessary to support ourselves. Only we can know if we have the resources to cater for certain emotions.
The next skill is discernment—to ensure we retain what is good and worthy of further processing and reflection, and to reject that which can be classified as ‘the devil trying to obtain a foothold’.
Discernment in the Retention/Rejection of Emotions
The step of allowing the emotions to arrive is about honesty and courage—the faith to venture on the true pilgrimage of the emotions. Character is required.
At some point we need to adjudicate for the emotions. For this step we need more than character—we need to delve into our capacities of discernment.
This is not easy. We will make mistakes. But the general guide is a good versus bad test.
Does the emotion lead us to a bad place of its own, or can we grow from venturing into it a little? Will going there make us stronger or weaker? Will going there lead us to God or away? Will going there involve faith or foolishness?
Emotions make us human. When we can receive our emotions, allowing them to arrive without fear, and when we can also choose to retain or reject them based on whether they’re beneficial or not, we have God’s blessing upon our lives. Learning to receive our emotions and to discern what emotions are from God and what aren’t is wisdom. Accept what is of God. Reject what isn’t.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

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