What We Feel is Not Who We Are

What We Feel is Not Who We Are

Our emotional lives move up and down constantly.  Sometimes we experience great mood swings: from excitement to depression, from joy to sorrow, from inner harmony to inner chaos.  A little event, a word from someone, a disappointment in work, many things can trigger such mood swings.  Mostly we have little control over these changes.  It seems that they happen to us rather than being created by us.

Thus it is important to know that our emotional life is not the same as our spiritual life.  Our spiritual life is the life of the Spirit of God within us.  As we feel our emotions shift we must connect our spirits with the Spirit of God and remind ourselves that what we feel is not who we are.  We are and remain, whatever our moods, God’s beloved children.

     Henri Nouwen

It’s incredible how our moods can change rapidly, often from moment to moment.  Dozens of compliments about something we’ve done can come quickly undone with just one small criticism, constructive as it may be.  An offhand comment, often unintentional, can knock us off our balance in a second.  A word of unwelcome news can suddenly ruin an otherwise happy day.

It is our constant human struggle to keep from swinging haphazardly from laughter, to frustration, and back and forth again and again.

And when our emotions get the best of us, sending us on downward spirals of negativity we are capable of imagining the absolute worst – that we are unworthy, that we are unimportant, that we are unloved.  

The often fragile state of our self-image takes hit after hit.  The hits add up.  They propel us into internal dark places, places of self-pity, self-loathing and self-absorption.  This focus on our selves gravitates toward the weak spots and the brokenness, perceived and real.  Those dark places are all we then often see.   We recognize them all too well and elevate them to a much loftier status than they ever deserve.  It’s self-defeating.  Destructive.  Painfully unhelpful.

But as Nouwen writes, our emotions and the places they take us are not who we are.  Our self-worth is not dependent on how we feel, happy or sad, glad or mad.  Our worth already comes simply from our birth, from our being human, from our presence in this world.  We matter just because we are.  We have been imbued with value and with purpose.  Just because someone says something to us that hurts or breaks our hearts in some way doesn’t mean we are bad or there is something wrong with us.  It doesn’t mean we need to be something different or need to change who we are to please them.  It doesn’t mean we have less value or are unlovable.  Just because someone else doesn’t love us perfectly doesn’t mean we are any less worthy of love.  Often the criticisms and doubts of other say more about them – about their insecurities, their weaknesses, their experiences – than they say about anything concerning us.   We need to remember that when we are inclined to dash toward the darkness, where self-doubt and self-destruction lurk.  We need, instead, to remember that worth is not measured in the tone of our emotions, but in the very nature of our beings, instead.   



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