To vent or to simmer? How should
Christians deal with their emotions?
you ever felt so angry at someone that the words that came from your mouth were
equivalent to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the soul? Or have you been so depressed
that, though you have never voiced it, you contemplated suicide? Have you been
so excited before that your thrill and joy caused you to act totally out of
character? The answer to at least one of those is yes for almost everyone. There are days when our temper was tampered
with and we realized that there was a green Hulk inside of us. We found out
that there was a Jekyll and a Hyde on the inside of our seemingly saint-like
nature. For many followers of Christ, the people around you probably rebuked
you for not showing Christlikeness or they patted you on the back and said,
“Let it out.” How should we deal with our anger, frustration and depression
when we engage in a political debate? Are we being hypocritical when we hold
back what we feel lest we say something we regret? Are we being honest by
venting it out?
are two reactions that the world has towards expressing overwhelming emotion.
The first is, “Vent it all out.” The second is, “Calm it all down.” Both
expressions are displayed by two kinds of people. The first kind is the liberal
mind that believes humanity is a free soul and emotions kept on the inside will
eat you up. The second kind of person is the conservative mind that believes
self-control above all else keeps one truly in-check with themselves. In both
stands, there are scientific, empirical studies that prove each to be
true. Many psychologists would
agree that talking about trauma is healthy holistically for the human in the
long run. Many psychologists and scientists will also agree however that outburst
of self expression such as anger could slow your heart down in the long run.
question is; what side should believers as followers of Jesus take?
answer is none. There is another way that God instructs us to take. Both
expressions are valid on various circumstances but both are wrong in the
economy and will of God.
Writing an angry Tweet or Facebook
update of how we hate our burdening boss may reflect honesty but it lacks
sensitivity and love. Truth without love is empty noise however factual. Even
Saint Paul said, speaking in tongues of angels devoid of love is like noisy
bells (1 Corinthians 13:1). To take the liberal approach in expressing our
emotions makes us not only arrogant (because we easily point others weaknesses
publicly and forget our own) but it also fuels pride. How? When you raise your
voice at someone and shout, “I can’t believe you did that!” you’re unknowingly
making another statement. You’re intrinsically saying, “What you did was so
bad. There’s no way I would ever do something as bad as that.” You’re basically elevating yourself
morally above the other person and looking down on their sin. In briefest sense,
you consider yourself better than them. That’s pride. Remember, I’m not against
talking about how you feel but against talking about how you feel in order to
deal with the emotion. Many people may argue that they vent to make a point.
Beloved we are called by Christ to make a difference not make a point. You
don’t see it until you dissect it. The human heart is deceitful.
Self-expression albeit honesty corrupts our hearts through pride and arrogance
in ways unseen.
NB: Men will have to give an account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken- Matthew 12:36-
the other hand holding in our feelings when we are emotional does not fit in the
economy of God either. When we simmer anger, it mutates in the compartment of
our hearts into bitterness. Bitterness harbours unforgiveness. When we simmer
concern, it mutates in our hearts into worry. When we simmer guilt, it mutates
into self-pity. When we simmer hurt, it mutates into revenge. The list is
endless. Anger, concern, guilt and hurt are in themselves beautiful emotions
that every human being undergoes. You’re probably hearing that for the first time. Emotions are
beautiful but are corrupted by sin. Many who hold their feelings on the inside
are victims and puppets of fear. They fear they may say something that may make
them look bad. Their concern on the surface may look like they’re looking out
for the welfare of the other person, but in the light of God’s truth they’re
looking out after their self-image. They can’t stand the fact that they won’t
be likeable after they express themselves. That’s selfishness. Simmering albeit
creating a non-hostile environment breeds self-absorption and yes, that too is
in ways unseen because the heart is deceitful above all else.
what should we do, you ask. Do we explode or do we simmer? What does God
require from us?
is important to clarify first of all that seeking God’s stance on how we
express our emotions is important for one chief reason; He invented the human
being. He knows how best it works. There are symptoms of human emotion that
science is making discovery of everyday. To the creator, there is no
novelty. Many of you will be
surprised to find the same discoveries in the Bible to men and women whose
greatest technological advancement was the wheel. Let me give you an example.
Paul says in Ephesians 4:26a, “Be angry but do not sin.” Paul agrees with the
experts that anger withheld can have traumatizing consequences so he endorses
expression of anger. But wait, Paul also agrees with the experts that say
expressed anger can be dangerous when he says, “But do not sin.” Paul endorses
being angry. He also endorses self-control. If Paul lived today, he would have
written Ephesians 4:26a as “When angry, don’t Facebook, face God.”
beloved is the principle of God’s will for expressing our emotions. We are to
neither vent our emotions nor simmer them; we are to pray them.
most emotional book in the Bible is the Psalms and it shows this. In it are
joys, cries, pains and exultations. All 150 chapters of the Psalms are warranted
by God for one reason; they face God. King David vehemently cries out to God to destroy his enemies
in several chapters in the Psalms. He is angry! He doesn’t vent it out in the public square.
Neither does he doesn’t simmer about it in silence. He prays them. When the
wicked are succeeding in Psalm 73, Asaph does not write angry tweets of how
unfair life is. At the same time, he doesn’t ignore what he feels and say none
of his business. No, he prays his emotions. He takes the situation to God. Every
overwhelming emotion a believer has should be channeled to God. Remember, I
said channeled TO God and not channeled AT God. When you angrily
blame God for the death of a loved one, that is channeling AT God and it is not
only improper but myopic of God’s will. When we pray our emotions, we go
through a cycle of adoring, confessing, thanking and interceding because of how
we feel and it heals us. It takes the burden from our hearts into the able arms
do we adore, confess, thank and intercede using our emotions? Read on, beloved.
example, when you see the beauty of creation and it takes your breath away, you
use your awed emotion to adore the creator of planet earth and it pleases Him.
When you feel guilty of something wrong you’ve done, you go before God and
confess your mistake and ask him to give you a clean spirit and he does so and
it pleases Him. When you score an A in your test, you channel that joy by
thanking God for your opportunities and resources at school and he perceives
your gratefulness and it pleases Him. When you see injustice in society and it
makes you angry, you channel that anger to God and you pray for divine
intervention in that area of injustice and it pleases Him. How does it please
Him? It pleases Him because God responds to your prayer and that of many
believers and heals the injustice through his powerful ways. Your prayer heals
happens when we don’t channel our emotions to God? I’ll tell you what happens.
see that sunset another time and you get used to it. You become indifferent and
unaware of his majesty and beautiful creation even after seeing it lots of
times. That’s how vices such as environmental degradation take over. Forests
are cut to make money because the populace did not channel their awe of its
beauty to God. They got used to it and didn’t see a problem when it was
destroyed. When you feel that guilt and fail to channel it to God, you become
self absorbed and develop self-pity and begin to think thoughts like: “Everyone
is against me,” “I’m no good,” “God hates me.”. You become conscious of every
mistake you make because the guilt ate you and become hostile by always saying
stuff like, “Don’t judge me!” Beloved, God will judge you at the end of it all
and the root cause is channeling your emotion to anywhere else apart from God.
When you score that A and fail to channel your emotional joy to God through
thanksgiving, you become proud and think highly of yourself because of what you
accomplished. All it takes is scoring a C or a B and your tower of As falls to
the ground. But when your joy is channeled to God through thanksgiving, you
remember that you are but dust and that God is the big guy behind all your
achievements. Even if you score a D, you are comfortable because you know you
rest within the parameters of God’s power despite the test outcome. When you
see injustice and angrily write a status update about it or tweet it, you not
only do nothing about it but you deny the people the power of God to intervene
spiritually. Emotion not channeled to God is wasted emotion; pray your
And when we pray our emotions, we allow ourselves to function as God desires. We cry, we laugh, we write what we feel and we become vulnerable. Praying our emotions brings healing and satisfaction beyond venting and simmering.
The book of Psalms has several instances
where writers like King David are fed up and angry, pleased and excited, guilty
and overcome. Many believers think that to be a Christian means not to express
yourself at all so that you can be seen as a saint. God differs. Others believe
that it means shouting at rooftops against evils. Nay! Pray your emotions. The
next time you see hungry children in Africa dying, lend a helping hand through
donation. If you are not able to help actively, don’t just tweet an empathetic
update, pray about it. Every human being constantly deals with emotions. There
is hardly a minute that passes by when an emotion in you is not active. If our
emotions are working 24/7, then it means we need to pray them 24/7. In doing so
we may just fulfill God’s command in 1st Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray
emotions are beautiful but corrupted by our sinful nature and refusal to
channel them to God. Joy turns into pride. Guilt turns into self pity. Hurt
turns into revenge. Anger turns into bitterness. Admiration turns into lust.
Concern turns into worry. Uncertainty turns into fear and anxiety.
calls us as Christians, true followers of Jesus to follow him without fear,
without holding onto bitterness and unforgiveness, without pride and self pity
and so many other vices that develop from corrupted emotions. And whenever they
raise their ugly heads, don’t vent them, don’t simmer them, pray them.