It seems that everyone is yelling at each other lately. Perhaps it’s always been there – just under the surface – but, the unabashed national rhetoric has been turned up lately and it has given everyone permission to unleash their biggest emotions on the world. What would Jesus say about this? What can we learn from the way Jesus handled his emotions?
First Century Political Rhetoric
Jesus dealt with the politics of his day. It was a time of high emotion and violent rhetoric. The Hebrew people had lived under the oppressive regime of one Empire after another for centuries and they longed to be free from the oppressor. The seeds of revolution were being sown throughout the countryside. Messianic hopes were at an all-time high. And those in charge were scrambling to keep control and consolidate power. In that environment of oppression mixed with desperation, words tend to become more and more vitriolic.
Emotions and the Tongue
The lines are drawn; everyone takes a side; and, the culture war rages. Voices of reason are drowned out and become irrelevant. In the mad rush for attention, only the most controversial and crass words resonate with the culture. Emotions go out of control. This is a recipe for disaster.
The Bible teaches us that the tongue is an unruly organ (James 3:6), and that it is connected to our emotions – those feelings and convictions that lie deep within. What comes out of our mouths is a reflection of the feelings and emotions that are within (James 3:12). What did Jesus teach us about managing our emotions?
On a side note — I shudder to think what our national rhetoric is teaching our children — the ways it is giving them permission to speak and act. The following six steps to manage your BIG emotions are something that could be taught to a child as well.
Six Steps to Manage Your Big Emotions
1. Take three big breaths or count slowly to ten.
You need to put some time between your initial emotional reaction and your response. There is a physiological response to your emotions (breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, etc.). These are signals your body is sending you that you are being threatened in some way. When you take control of these signals you are taking the first step to controlling your emotions instead of letting them control you.
Jesus was once confronted by his enemies. He didn’t respond at first. He knelt down and began to write something on the ground (John 8:6). We are never told what he was writing (that drives some people crazy). Obviously, what he was writing isn’t important. Maybe, it’s just that he was taking time to listen, breath, and collect his thoughts before he responded!
2. Remind yourself that it is never okay to hurt someone.
Use your words to attack issues, not people. Sticks and stones may break the bones, but words will break the heart and the spirit, and long after bones have healed the spirit is still hurting. It’s okay to speak truth to people. It’s okay to attack ideas or philosophies. It’s never okay to attack people.
Jesus told us to treat people the same way we would want to be treated (Mt. 7:12).
3. Use your words to say what you feel and what you wish would happen.
This has the effect of shifting the focus from the other person to yourself. What is it that I am feeling? What is it that I want to see happen? It means that you take responsibility for your own feelings and your own hopes and dreams. When you express them in a way that is non-threatening to the other person you might be surprised at their response.
Jesus said, “… you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:32). The truth – especially the truth about yourself – what is going on inside of you – why are you really so angry – what is it that is really bothering you – the truth is a liberating thing.
4. Ask for help to solve the problem.
This is a way of acknowledging that you don’t have all the answers – you don’t think that you are always right – you need help. It gets the other person on your team.
Jesus said to his disciples – “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Mt. 26:38). Jesus wasn’t afraid to ask for help when he was feeling overwhelmed.
5. Take time to reflect on your feelings.
Mindfulness and self-awareness are woefully lacking in our society. You will be far ahead of most if you simply take time to reflect on your feelings and the ideas or philosophies attached to them. If nothing else, it will help you solidify what you believe and why. That way you can more calmly and effectively communicate your feelings to others.
The Bible says, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Lk. 4:1). He was led there by the Spirit in order to be tested. He had to reflect and understand who he really was – the ramifications of his baptismal experience. Jesus took time to reflect and meditate on his life and work.
This should go without saying – but, I’ll say it anyway – Prayer is the most powerful force you have at your disposal. Pray for your leaders, family, friends, and foes. It is impossible to pray for someone and hate them at the same time.
The Bible reports that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Lk. 5:16).
There they are – six ways to better manage your BIG feelings. I hope it helps!