The importance of emotional self awareness
Our emotional reactions to people, circumstances and places reveal a lot about ourselves. We may be unaware that our hidden attitudes dishonour God and idolise ourselves. Spiritual growth requires that we develop emotional self-awareness.
(See Chinese versions: 简体中文 > 情绪自我意识的重要性 | 繁體中文 > 情緒自我意識的重要性)
Fortunately, God’s Holy Spirit will also convict us when we start to give in to ungodly emotional reactions. Our emotions can go off in all sorts of directions without warning. It takes wisdom from the Holy Spirit and some level of personal discipline to choose to act in Christlike love.
Here is what some negative emotions can tell us about ourselves.
1. Frustration / Impatience
Frustration and impatience say, “Why is this person behaving this way?“
Frustration and impatience are closely related to pride. When we think we are the ones with the righteous views, the real message is “I love myself above anything, including God’s commandment to love our neighbour”.
Matthew 19:26 ESV But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Confidence says “I’ve got this all figured out, I know the solution / what this person needs“.
Any smug confidence and pride in our own abilities may blind us to the need to consult the Holy Spirit about God’s thoughts and plans first.
Philippians 3:3 ESV For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh
3. Indignation / Outrage
Indignation says, “I can’t believe he or she said / did that“.
People can be unknowingly rude, ungrateful and entitled. But we have to beware not to fall for a form of self-superiority that expects certain behaviours from other people. We are all sinful human beings in need of God’s mercy and grace.
John 16:33 ESV I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Anger says, “I’m so upset with this person that I feel a boiling anger inside me“.
If we take the time to examine ourselves, we might find a pattern to what makes us angry. Certain triggers will set off hot emotions inside of us. They are often related to feelings of unresolved injustices from our past. Some could even have happened decades ago. Such hidden issues will make our emotions more explosive than they need to be.
James 1:19-20 ESV Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
It’s important not to let anger to lead us to sin and judge the person we are angry with. Let’s examine ourselves first and ask, “why am I so angry? Is there something I need to deal with inside of me first?”.
Hurt feelings say, “I’m feeling strong emotional pain from what that person has said or done“.
It’s hard to be vulnerable and genuinely care about others. Our hurt feelings may, in turn, reveal our desire for personal gratification, rather than God’s glory. Loving others sacrificially will inadvertently involve some personal risk and discomfort. But if we do it for the glory of God, we do not have to be discouraged because God has our backs covered.
Let’s also remember that God is the ultimate judge. If someone continues to do hurtful things, they will have to answer to God one day. This should inspire us to pray even more for people who do hurtful things because their judgement will be more severe than how we feel.
Romans 12:17-21 ESV Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Anxiety says, “I don’t know exactly what to say or do, what if I do the wrong thing?“
There will be times we will be out of our depth, such as when we’re trying to help someone who wants to commit suicide, has death threats against them, is in a complex legal battle, has an abusive husband, has just been raped etc. Such situations call for specialist care and counsel, and we should not hesitate to suggest that such help also is sought, in addition to us standing by them.
But in general, most situations we deal with involve everyday issues, regarding work, family, singleness, self-identity, finance etc. Our nervousness and apprehension in these cases may reveal that we are relying too much on our own abilities, rather than on the Holy Spirit. God is the best Teacher. He loves us too much to leave us lost and ignorant, and always provides the answers when we faithfully and boldly ask for wisdom.
James 1:5-6 ESV If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
7. Despair / Hopelessness
Despair says, “This person is hopeless“.
This form of thinking is very condemning and the worst of all the emotions we can feel about anyone because it is very close to cursing.
James 1:26 ESV If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
Let us beware of hidden attitudes that may dishonour God and idolise ourselves. God is with us all the time and knows everything we do. May we check our hearts so that our emotions are always pure in His sight.
Psalm 139:7 ESV Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
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