The more I think about the subject of emotional control, the more it freaks me out. Just kidding. The more I think about it, for real, the deeper the rabbit hole goes and the network of tunnels pops up almost everywhere you look. There isn’t anywhere we can go to get away from The Feels, because wherever we go, there we are, let alone whatever drama queens we may run into.
My point is, it’s a big topic, possibly and not really ironically a hot topic. Let’s see what we can do with three qualifications for this series of exhortations.
First, some of you have really big problems, and I say that to say that I have no interest in band-aid ministry. Emotional health, like any sort of health, resists quick fixes. There are some who have been, or perhaps are being, truly and traumatically abused in any number of ways. Likewise, there are some who have chosen, and may still be choosing, persistent and patterned sin. You will probably need to be as persistent in establishing a pattern of repentance. Also, I think especially for our kids, many have never been taught or even talked to about the blessings and freedom of disciplining their emotions.
That leads to my second qualification. I cannot ever remember hearing about this as a kid, or as a college student, or without pursuing the subject on my own. I suppose there were times when I was whiny and my dad told me to “Stop it,” which, is fine, and Bob Newhart definitely made it funny. But it is something that can be learned, I am continuing to learn it, and have said before that I have had to repent, especially from anger, that caused real damage to those around me. I am addressing the issue with concerns for almost every one of my roles, not just as a pastor trying to lord it over how everyone else is doing it wrong.
And then third, emotional control is not just something that can be learned, it must be learned as a disciple of Christ. This does make it a pastoral priority, then, not just a comfy therapy session. God Himself says to “keep your heart with all vigilance” (Proverbs 4:23), and to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
If you are triggered into emotional epilepsy by dinner being 10 minutes late, an unexpected bill, a barking dog, disobedient kids, traffic, finding out the candidate you voted for lost, an undesirable diagnosis or prescribed treatment, an inattentive spouse, a crying baby, the looming reality of uncomfortable family conversations (over Zoom, ha!) this Thanksgiving, by being involved in boy/girl drama or by watching others involved in boy/girl drama, to name a few, then we have military level work to do to gain control of the emotional ground in our chests.