Refuse to empower emotional excess
“My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger…” (James 1:19)
The cultural mantra is “be true to yourself.” This means you can do and pursue whatever you feel is right and good and true to you. The cultural mantra is wrong.
“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back” (Proverbs 29:11).
There are things worth restraining. Chief among them is our tendencies to self-justify and to define ourselves by what we feel. You may feel that you want to sound off on social media about an issue, but rather… be quick to listen instead of being quick to speak. Don’t give “full vent to your spirit.”
What happened in Uvalde, Texas (and across our world throughout history) is an example of an individual giving full vent to their spirit. What Salvador Ramos did was “unthinkable,” or so we think. He thought it, and he did it. As a result of him giving “full vent to his spirit,” 21 people were killed at an elementary school.
Who’s to blame?
We rightly judge this 18 year-old for an act of evil. We want to blame guns, gun laws, parenting… We want to blame. What came out of Ramos’ guns were bullets. Those miniature metal missiles were life destroying. But it was what was in his heart that was soul killing. And what was in his heart is in mine as well. It’s also in yours.
Sin perverts and clouds our emotions. Sin distorts our reasoning. Sin convinces us that what we feel and want and desire is good for us. If we feel something strongly and passionately, it must be right. It must be worthy. We must deserve it.
“As long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.”
That’s the adage. We must limit our feelings and pursuits if they lead to the harm of another. That’s the best “wisdom” a godless culture has to offer. Yet, what is the rationale for limiting our desires? If we have evolved, and we’re all just happy accidents, shouldn’t we pursue whatever makes us feel good in the moment?
What if what you want hurts you? Shouldn’t those of us in your life care enough to warn you about pursuing your emotional excesses? What if worry is crippling your decision-making? What if what you deeply want threatens to destroy you - be it a substance, a relationship, or a bankrupting pursuit?
Just because you feel deeply about something doesn’t make its attainment healthy for you.
That’s when the wisdom of God in the scriptures resets us to a better perspective. He made us. He knows what’s best. Our emotions are gifts. They are beautiful when expressed within restraint. God knows we can get “carried away” by emotional extremes and excess. He also sees that, left to ourselves, these pursuits of what we want can become harmful, destructive and even murderous.
Take a breath.
It always easy to point out someone else’s evil and ignore our own. This week, before you’re tempted to “sound off” in a social media rant, be quick to listen. Don’t give full vent to your spirit. When you’re all up in your feels, shift from being self-justifying and self-consumed to putting someone else’s feelings (and honor) before your own.1 When worry and anxiety pull you under…
Take a breath.
When you “feel” your emotions spiraling out of control, “see” your thoughts for what they are and how they’re impacting you emotionally, and get some help in focus from a friend. If your thoughts are progressively darker, humble yourself and reach out for a pastor or counselor.
You are not your emotions. You can rule them. You will need help.
When our emotional excesses rule us, bad things happen all around. Let me add a caveat to that - negative emotional excesses. Emotions that come from genuine love should be nurtured:
“A joyful heart is good medicine…” (Proverbs 17:22)
The “but” that Proverb is “but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” How true! Positive emotions like joy, hope, peace, and contentment spring from genuine love. That kind of emotional excess is what we all need more of.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)