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Handling Negative Emotions

One of the earlier misunderstandings that we had about being a Christian were negative emotions. We thought that when you became a Christian, all of those negative emotions would be changed and that you would always be a wonderful person. Anger, jealousy, worrying--we thought we would never experience any of these. Rather we believed we would only demonstrate the positive attitudes of the Holy Spirit. The result was that Sally and I doubted that we were really Christians.

Salvation does not mean that you become God with imperfection as an impossibility, rather it means that you are forgiven, that you are part of God's family. You do have the Holy Spirit living within you. This now gives you the increased capacity to choose to exhibit the positive fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Negative emotions are not removed when you become a Christian. Therefore you need to understand them and learn how to handle negative emotions. You need to know how to appropriate God's grace to reduce the frequency of the negative emotion being expressed and also to accept God's grace for forgiveness when those negative emotions are expressed in detrimental ways.

Understanding Emotions

1. Emotions are normal. As humans beings we are multi-dimensional. That is we are physical, spiritual, social, and intellectual. But we also are emotional and psychological. If we didn't have emotions we wouldn't be truly human.

2. Emotions are neither negative or positive, how we use them determines whether they are negative or positive. We usually think of certain emotions such as love, joy, and compassion, as positive--while anger, fear, and jealousy are thought of as negative. But, love can be negative if it becomes possessive or controlling. The Bible speaks of some types of anger as being righteous anger.


Early in my life when I was asking a friend about sinning, he said, "It isn't that Christians are sinless, it is just that they do, in fact, sin less."



3. Emotions are not sin. Remember again that emotions are neutral but the way we use them may lead to sin. Just feeling emotions surge within us does not mean that we have sinned, nor that we are guilty.

James 1 shows the pattern of thoughts coming before emotions--and actions following the emotions. It is possible to sin at any level--a thought level, emotions, or at the action level. It is also possible, for example, to have lustful thoughts that surge upon us that are not sin.

The sin may come as we decide what to do with that lustful thought or temptation. If we accept it and fondle it, we have sinned. If the thought or emotion comes and we reject it, then we have not sinned, even though a lustful thought or emotion rushed through our mind and our body was effected physically by that emotion.

4. You have control or choice. You can't always control the circumstances or events around your life, but you can choose to react or not react to them. Using the illustration of lust--someone may come into your presence who is very sexually provocative to you. You may not be able to control the person's presence, but you do have a choice of whether you will accept and respond to that potentially lustful situation. The same is true with anger. No one makes you angry. You are presented with a circumstance that could produce anger--but you choose to be angry.

It is important to get beyond the point where we think of every emotion as sinful, or that we are helpless victims of whatever emotions are thrust upon us. We cannot control our circumstances, but God has given us His Holy Spirit to help us make wise choices toward godliness, rather than toward sin.

As we realize that we have a choice, then we see the importance of regularly allowing God, the Holy Spirit to renew our minds (Romans 12:2). Day by day we nourish our spiritual lives so that when those times of choice come we respond more frequently in godly directions.

Early in my life when I was asking a friend about sinning, he said, "It isn't that Christians are sinless, it is just that they do, in fact, sin less." In other words, as we walk with God His spirit gives us the capacity to more frequently choose to direct our thoughts, emotions, and actions in ways that are moral and honor God.


Anger may be expressed in many ways--explosively as retaliation, or sometimes in a passive/aggressive mode. Some people try to hide their anger.



Handling Anger

Anger is not caused by people, events, or circumstances--rather it's caused by our response. Sometimes people say to me, "I really wouldn't have sinned that way if it hadn't been for my wife or husband. They just irritate me so much." That person is really saying, "I'm really a marvelous individual. Everyone else is at fault."

People who are perfectionists tend to have a greater problem with anger. They expect more from themselves and from other people. As a result, they are frequently disappointed, and often angry at themselves, circumstances, or other people.

People who have low self-esteem are also easily hurt and sometimes that hurt causes them to be angry.

Anger's Many Expressions


Anger may be expressed in many ways--explosively as retaliation, or sometimes in a passive/aggressive mode. Some people try to hide their anger. You know they're angry, but they don't want to talk about it.

Results Of Unresolved Anger.

Most of the time anger does more damage to the person who is angry, than the person who caused the anger, or the person who receives the angry outburst. The angry person quite often harbors bitterness, resentments, hatred, even murder. They may experience physical or mental illnesses. Love is blocked by anger. The person frequently blames others. Anger blocks out clear thinking and objective evaluation of situations.


Worry breeds fear and more distrust. It effects those around us. It saps our energy and creativity. It wastes time, causes ulcers, and over-all has a negative impact in our lives.



Heading Off Anger

1. Don't carry grudges.

2. State problems objectively.

3. Adopt flexibility with yourself and others. Reduce your demand for perfection.

4. Work on building your self-esteem so that your security doesn't hinge on everything going right around you.

Worry

Sometimes worry is put under the category of concern, or uneasiness--but its' root cause is that we are not trusting God as we are encouraged to do. (see Matthew 6:33) Betty Coble suggests that worry is really emotional atheism, that is, we do not believe that God is able to do what He promises.

There is a difference between worry and concern. True concern is what we feel for things that we can do something about. Worry, on the other hand, is what we do when we're dealing with things that we cannot change. These very unchangeable things are the items that need to be committed to God.

Worry breeds fear and more distrust. It effects those around us. It saps our energy and creativity. It wastes time, causes ulcers, and over-all has a negative impact in our lives.

What To Do With Worry.

Telling yourself to stop worrying generally doesn't correct the problem. Try the following:

1. Confront and acknowledge what is worrying you. Be as specific as possible. List not only the situation, but also the feelings you are experiencing.

2. Tell God what is worrying you. He is concerned about you. He does care (see I Peter 5:7).

3. Ask for God's peace. God promises that as we follow this simple pattern of confronting our worrying and turning these things over to God, He will give us peace (see Philippians 4:4-9).


If you are jealous of your marriage partner, you have that right. Marriage is a special relationship. Each one should be first with the other. However, marriage is not a legal grant to possess the other.



4. Turn worry into positive action. The scripture says instead of worrying, fix your thoughts and mind in positive directions. Are there actions that you can take, or is there a need to deliberately fix your attention, and trust, onto God Himself.

Jealousy

Characteristics of jealousy is the fear of being ousted or replaced--thoughts of envy, rivalry, or possessiveness.

The results of jealousy again are more negative to the person who is jealous than to the other people involved in the situation. The person who is jealous becomes a suspicious person, who is less attractive and desirable. The jealous person is not open and trusting in relationships, and as a result, insecurity is increased and the circle of friends continues to shrink.

How To Counteract Jealousy

1. Build a strong self-esteem so that you are not easily threatened by changing situations.

2. Reduce perfectionism in yourself and high expectations for other people so that you are more flexible and allow people to be more human.

3. Build relationships with people so that each of you are mutually strengthened through friendships. If you are always the giving one, or always the receiving one, there is a greater potential for jealousy to develop.

4. Share your jealous concerns with one of these friends with which you have a close relationship. Ask them to give you a more balanced perspective.

5. If you are jealous of your marriage partner, you have that right. Marriage is a special relationship. Each one should be first with the other. However, marriage is not a legal grant to possess the other.

Galatians 5 tells us that jealousy is a spiritual matter. It would be helpful to take the matter to Christ and ask Him to change you so that you are not controlled by jealousy.



Think of yourself as inserting a little positive tape into your brain--a tape that will play the opposite kind of message from what the negative emotion might normally dictate.



How To Change Negative Emotions

1. Identify the bad emotions that bother you. Name them--don't excuse them.

2. Note when and why they occur. Is it when you are tired or irritated. Is it primarily related to one individual? As you identify when and why, then, if possible, try to avoid the situation or at least anticipate the situation. If you are irritated when someone is late, prepare yourself ahead of time before they arrive so that the negative emotion is controlled.

3. Use self-talk. Our thoughts and attitudes do determine our feelings and our actions. Think of yourself as inserting a little positive tape into your brain--a tape that will play the opposite kind of message from what the negative emotion might normally dictate.

For example, as you walk into a room filled with strangers, remind yourself that you are God's child--that He has arranged this meeting, and that you as a special person have something to offer to each of these who are unknown to you.

4. Claim God's help. Perhaps some of these verses will help to focus you on God's desire to help you.

a. Hebrews 12:2--"Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader."
b. Joshua 1:5--"I'll never leave you, nor forsake you."
c. II Corinthians 5:17--"Therefore if any person is in Christ, they are a new creation. Old things are in the process of passing away, behold all things are in the process of becoming new."

God is in the process of making you into a new creation. Agree with that process. Draw on the scripture. As the Holy Spirit works in you He will move you toward controlling those negative emotions.


Conway / Farrel Articles ~    Reprint by permission only,  ©2011

Midlife Dimensions ~ www.Midlife.com

  

The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors.

Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.