“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”
Early in my marriage, I underlined this gem from Proverbs 17 and wrote “TRISTA!!” out in the margin. I confess that I was often more interested in making myself heard than in truly resolving conflict. As a matter of fact, I often created conflict just to make my point. Looking back now, I wonder what in the world I was thinking.
To be honest, I wasn’t thinking at all. I was feeling. I was feeling unheard, unjustified and unloved. My emotions railroaded what my mind knew to be true. My husband loved me. He did not think I was a moron. His most fervent wish was not to ruin my life. In truth, he was not my enemy.
But, boy! It sure felt like it at times!
Recently, that same husband (the most patient man in the world) and I were walking through a nearby high school to attend a seminar. As is often the case, the halls were lined with encouraging pep talk-type signs for the athletic and academic teams. One of them said, “Don’t Think. Just Feel.”
Is this what we’re teaching the next generation? Don’t use your reasoning powers. Don’t think through the situation. Don’t examine your options and make an informed decision.
Just let your emotions call the shots. If you’re mad, act on it. If you’re hurt, act on it. If you don’t get your way and life feels unfair, act on it. Immediately. Forget the consequences and act like a three-year-old. Totally go with your feelings.
Like I said before: Wow.
The fact of the matter is that feelings can be incredibly deceiving. We all know this…if we actually think about it. Healthy emotions can be a thermometer in our lives, but they can never be a thermostat. In other words, emotions may reveal how the experiences of our lives are affecting us, but how we respond to said experiences should never be predominantly determined by our emotions.
People often say that, out of all of the things they could wish for in this life, they wish their kids to be happy. It may sound strange, but I guess I don’t really want that for my crew. I personally can be up and down from happy thirteen times in any given day. I want my kids to have something much deeper and more lasting than happiness–the joy and peace that come from living for Jesus Christ in spite of our circumstances. I want them to respond to their emotions with thoughtfulness and wisdom. I want them to be able to discern what is true and what is not. I want them to think more than feel.
When I relied so heavily on my emotions all those years ago, I essentially nullified my own voice. My husband, who reasons better than he emotes, was so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of my feelings that he eventually kind of shut down. I breached so many dams on the soapbox of my emotions that, no matter how valid some of my points were, he learned to tune me out. Looking back, I think I probably sounded a lot like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wa-wah”. Yeah, not what I had in mind.
When I finally started to reign it in and rule over my emotions, focusing on what was true and right, I had a steep hill to climb. Not only did I have to re-train myself, I had to re-train my husband. It was my turn to be patient as I worked on re-building his trust in what I communicated to him. It was a rough road. And, the re-building took much, much longer than the breaching. Yuck. Maybe some of you have been there, too.
That same chapter in Proverbs tells us that he who covers over an offense promotes love. In this life, I don’t want to be remembered as a dam-breacher. As we’ve seen in the footage from hurricanes, a breached dam is a horrible tragedy with far-reaching consequences. Instead, even if it means that I don’t feel like I’m heard, I want to leave the legacy of love.