Recognize pain – or deny our emotion

By Dave Henning / December 5, 2020

“Most of us were not taught how to recognize pain, name it, and be with it.  But what we know now is that when we deny our emotion, it owns us.  When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain.”- Brene Brown, Braving the Wilderness

“My heart pounds in my chest.  The terror of death assaults me.  Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking.  Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest.”- Psalm 55:4-6 (NLT)

In Chapter 8 (“Try Softer With Your Emotions”) of Try Softer, Aundi Kolber observes that people love to criticize emotions.  As a result, our own emotions or the emotions of others often become scapegoats for what’s wrong with just about anything.  Furthermore, two ways exist that keep us from paying compassionate attention.  We:

  1. disconnect from our emotions, or –
  2. shame ourselves when these emotions won’t be ignored

However, Aundi notes, the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11) provides a heartwarming reminder of the value of our emotions.  Most significantly, when Jesus arrived at the tomb of Lazarus, He wept (v. 35).  Thus, Jesus entered into and honored the present grief of Mary and Martha.

In addition, as Jesus lamented with His friends, He allowed them to process their emotions.  Also, Jesus certainly knew that this process enabled Mary and Martha to tap into their bodies’ natural ability to integrate difficult experiences.  So, Jesus didn’t rush them along.  Instead, He bestowed empathy and patience.

Finally, Aundi states, in order to know how to respond to ourselves, we need the data our emotions give us.  As Peter Scazzero writes in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, expressing feeling is a natural part of being human:

“To minimize or deny what we feel is a distortion of what it means to be image bearers of our personal God.  To the degree that we are unable to express our emotions, we remain impaired in our ability to love God, others, and ourselves well.”

Today’s question:  Do you find yourself more likely to recognize pain and name it or to deny your emotions?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Name it to tame it – calm down the firing”

About the author

Dave Henning

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