How to Manage Emotions
Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. - (Proverbs 25:28, NIV).
Friend to Friend
Many people are imprisoned by feelings of inferiority, and the results are always disastrous. Constructive criticism is perceived as an emotional attack. Jealousy burgeons as others receive the accolades we desperately crave. Decisions are made and the course of a life is determined so that fragile egos are fed, excluding God’s plan and purpose. Comparison reigns as a false idol attempting to validate worth and success. Inferiority crosses over to pride, and sin reigns. It is time for us to take control of and learn how to manage negative emotions.
Step one:Identify the source of negative emotions. Proverbs 23:7 (NIV) reminds us of a simple but powerful truth, “For as a man thinks, so is he.” Negative emotions are nourished in many ways – by daily challenges, a painful past, hurt or rejection, an undisciplined thought life or Satan himself. Some people qualify as “carriers” because they not only transmit negative emotions but constantly use others as their personal dumping ground. In managing negative emotions, it is imperative that we identify their source and eliminate it.
Step two: Label negative emotions correctly. We are masters at mislabeling emotions because we fear exposing our true emotions will affect the way others see us. It is time for us to take off and burn the emotional masks we wear because healing and restoration begin at the point of emotional integrity.
Step three: Learn to manage emotions. It is not enough to acknowledge the presence of negative emotions or even understand why they exist. We must take action because if we don’t, negative emotions will. We must not only be able to manage negative emotions, but we must be able to respond correctly to negative emotions produced by the sometimes abrasive behavior of others. The people in our lives watch carefully, curious to see what happens when the pressure is on. Our prayer should be the same as the psalmist, “Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires” (Psalm 51:10).
On the other hand, we can put negative emotions to work in our lives. Emotions can be like runaway horses. You are trampled by someone with a hidden agenda, kicked in the gut by a friend, thrown by the lies of a family member or crushed by a lack of integrity and character in those in authority over you. Emotions can easily stampede out of control and into sin.
The success of emotional integrity lies in the one who holds the reins. We must constantly choose to surrender every emotion to the supernatural control of God because when we do, the Holy Spirit empowers that choice, produces control and transforms emotional bondage into emotional freedom. Learning to control anger is a crucial life lesson. The people around us want to see what happens when life pushes our buttons or squeezes our emotions. While God created us with the capacity for emotions, it is our responsibility to control them instead of allowing them to control us.
When Jesus saw money-changers desecrating the temple of God, He was furious! Yet, He modeled the right way to harness emotions and use them for good. I have heard many Bible teachers and preachers attempt to soften the response of Jesus, but the truth is - He was irate! I can almost see His face shrouded in plain old fury as He contemplated His options. If I had been in His place, I can tell you that those wicked men would have been toast, but before Jesus faced the intruders, He stepped aside to braid a whip, not because He had completed “Whip Braiding 101,” but because He was taking the time to harness His emotions. Jesus then used that harnessed anger to drive the money-changers out of the temple, correcting a wrong. We choose where to invest every ounce of emotional energy we possess. Like Jesus, we must learn to invest wisely, in order to reap the benefits of healthy emotions, harnessed and trained by godly discipline.
Emotional bankruptcy is too often responsible for the destruction of our emotional health as well as the health of our relationships. When we value success over obedience or comfort over character, the result is a life without balance and purpose. We must intentionally monitor emotional withdrawals and the impact they will have on the life journey to which God has called us.
Daily life provides the opportunity for countless emotional withdrawals that are good, right and ordained by God. I will never forget the night we found a broken and defeated young pastor standing at our front door. With tears streaming down his face, he told us his wife was having an affair and wanted a divorce. Certain that his ministry was doomed, this precious and gifted servant poured out his pain and defeat. For months, Dan and I ministered to this stellar young man, loving him, encouraging him, making him part of our family while he tried desperately to save his marriage.
When it became clear that his wife was determined to leave, we repeatedly assured him that God would once again use him for Kingdom work. Today, that once broken young man is married to a beautiful, godly woman who adores him and they have three incredible children. The church he now pastors is exploding in growth, changing lives and impacting the world for Jesus Christ! The time and energy we poured into this young man was a worthy emotional investment, to say the least, and one of our greatest blessings in ministry.
However, some emotional deposits are not good, right, healthy or God-ordained. Each day is jam-packed with lifeless places in which we can invest emotional energy. There are those who look to us to be their faithful savior or an always available crisis manager. Those roles belong to God alone.
We all know about bounced checks. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why banks don’t adopt my obviously superior philosophy about checking accounts. It goes something like this, “As long as there are checks, there is money.” Sadly, my current bank is rather narrow-minded in this area, so the reality is that our checks will bounce when our bank account is overdrawn and out of balance. The same is true in life.
We constantly need to check our emotional balance, guarding the emotional withdrawals we allow and diligently making consistent emotional deposits. Prayer, solitude, Bible study, friendships, service, accountability and a guarded thought life are just a few of the deposits that can make the difference between emotional health and emotional bankruptcy. Paul says it well, “God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing” (Ephesians 2:10, NCV). In other words, we need to do what God has called us to do – period.
Emotional imbalance occurs when we operate in our own strength, doing our “own thing” instead of wholly depending upon God and living in the parameters of His will. When we abandon all that we are to His strength, purpose and power, the Father deposits everything we need to accomplish every good work He created us to do.
Father, I praise You for giving me the gift of emotions. Please help me learn how to manage and control those emotions so that they are assets instead of liabilities. I want to become a godly woman of discipline, but I can’t even start that journey without your power. I choose to spend time in Your Word and in prayer. I submit my emotions to You and ask that You use them in my life for Your glory. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
Take a few moments to consider the following questions:
Who or what pushes your emotional buttons the most?
What are your present emotional management skills? How well do they work?
What factors in your daily schedule make you more prone to lose emotional control?
Read and memorize our key verse for today. Record it in your journal. In your own words, write how this verse can help you manage your emotions. Determine one change you need to make in your life in order to allow God to help you control your emotions in a way that honors Him.
More from the Girlfriends
Need help? Check out Mary’s E-Book Bible Study, Anger Management 911, and discover the peace of God – even in your most chaotic moments.
Looking for a Bible Study? Check out Mary’s weekly online Bible Study, Light for the Journey and learn how to deal with the anger in your life. (Join now and have access to all lessons covered in 2012 including a study on the armor of God, how to tame your tongue and how to live a balanced life.) Be sure to connect with Mary on Facebook or through email.
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