Trust In Your Feelings

One of the dark gifts I was given as a teenager by the religious authority figures in my life was a distrust of my feelings.  

In my church youth group and chapel services in the Christian school I attended, I was taught I needed to guard against improper feelings of all kinds, including, but not limited to, the following: 

  • Feelings of lust--the kind that might lead to all manner of avarice and dancing.
  • Feelings of doubt--the kind that might lead me to forsake my faith and become something terrible like a Presbyterian. 
  • Feelings of rebellion--the kind that would cause me to reject the authority of the Bible, my pastors, parents, youth leaders, or anyone who would keep me from sinning profusely. 
The list was longer than this, but you get the idea.  

Sadly, scores and scores of teenagers raised in the dominant forms of Christianity in our culture are still being taught the same things.   They are trained to distrust so many of the feelings they feel---feelings that are not only normal but useful for maturity and growth as a human.  

The Church needs to do better.  

But I am sharing all this not to land on some referendum on how the Church is messing something up again but to tell a bit of my own story about why I struggle to feel my feelings.  

My teenage experience of learning to repress my feelings isn't the sum total of why I struggle to own what I feel, but it's an integral part of it.  

We all have our own stories to tell about our struggle to truly feel what we're feeling.  

Most of us push down our feelings because we've either been taught to do so or have learned that we ought not to trust them very much. 

The fear that our feelings will determine who we are is a real fear that far too many of us feel.  

One of the most helpful authors I've read on this particular topic is Melody Beattie, whose book Co-Dependent No More has helped millions of people learn to embrace their feelings without fear or judgment.  

Beattie writes: Surrendering to the simple truths, even the simple truth of what we're really feeling, will always set us free. 

Our feelings don't define us, but they can serve as a barometer to help us interpret our circumstances, trials, tribulations, tragedies, triumphs, joys, hopes, and dreams.  

And if we are courageous enough to let ourselves feel them, we might discover the truth about ourselves, and here is that truth in a nutshell: 

We are loved by a God who understands what we feel and how hard it is to let those feelings in without fear.  

We are cherished by a God who has imprinted us with God's very DNA and who longs for us to live into that hope-filled knowledge with joy. 

May you let yourself feel today.  Trust that your feelings are teaching you and helping you to know yourself.  Know that they don't define you; God does. 

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen. 


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