July 16, 2014

Reading the Scale: Emotions Lie...??? Hmm...

What I'm about to write here... friggin' hurts my brain people. So I apologize in advance if I totally loose you at some point in all this. (If I do, just go read this book, because the author explains it a hundred times better than how I'm about to.)

Emotional wellness looks a lot like a scale in which we weigh the feelings on one side with the context on the other, with the ideal being they would balance. Emotional wellness looks a lot like a scale: certain feelings weigh in at a one or a two (no biggie), while others hit a 9 or a 10 (i.e. this is like catastrophic). 

Some emotions should leave us feeling totally unhinged, because there are scenarios in life that really are catastrophic for a person to experience. Emotions are readings that tell us the truth about what's at work within our hearts. In other words, emotions don't lie to you. 

Hold up!!!!!!!! I know what you're thinking right now: "That's soooo not true Natalie! Emotions lie to us all the time."

Give me a chance to break down what I just said there... Because this is why we have to grasp a clear understanding of what the heart is and its inner workings. The short version goes a little like this: There's the heart, and it's the center of each person's being; it's the core of all that you are. And your core is interconnected and influences 6 aspects of our lives (taken via Renovation of the Heart):
  1. Thoughts
  2. Feelings
  3. Choices
  4. Body
  5. Social Contexts
  6. Soul
The first two, thoughts and feelings (i.e. your sensations and emotions), are heavily interwoven together, and these, along with the others, flow out of what your heart deep down believes as the truth. Philosopher and theologian Dallas Willard illustrated it as a series of concentric circles: The center is your heart, will, and spirit. The circle right after that is the mind, which is where emotions and thoughts reign. This is where we need to stop and define what we mean when we say the word truth, because there are two types...
  1. Truth. With a capital T. This is God's Word and wisdom. What He says.
  2. truth. With a little t. This is what our hearts are believing at a given moment as the truth. That doesn't mean it is the Truth or that it is right. It's the kind of truth that works as a diagnostic tool for the human heart. You have to think a bit paradoxical here.
Stick with me here... the question is not do emotions lie, it's what are we feeding and rooting our hearts in? Because we either feed and root them in the Truth (God's Word and wisdom) or we feed them with lies (via the Enemy, along with our sin nature). Those come first; they enter into the heart, then they travel through to our emotions, and continue out into the other aspects.

This why we can say emotions don't lie to us, but rather they reveal the truth of the condition of the heart. Lies are what lie to us... then they proceed to inform emotions and how those emotions are manifested. The question we're after is, "What's the condition of the heart then?" 

When we see someone getting emotional or we ourselves are emotional, our reaction is not to be a guilt or shame driven one. We should graciously say, "Hey, let's look at why you're experiencing these feelings and emotions and projecting them outward." Take it back to the core, because if we stop at just the emotions, we're stopping a step too short, and when we stop too short, that's when we operate under behavior modification mode, not heart transformation. 

So, let's put this into play with a real life example...


I am very dedicated to my education and working towards my career goals. I don't have many other facets in my life that take up a chunk of my life because I'm not married, I don't have kids, and I don't have many personal projects at the moment. That's not to say those things are bad, but simply, they're not on the table for me right now. And being that this is my life context right now, it can be all too easy for me to slip into the rhythm of making academic and career pursuit my counterfeit spouse. A professor assigns a unit that has to have 5 lessons, I turn around and go write one with 30. No joke. Then the other paraprofessionals look at me like I'm this crazy, obsessive, compulsive person. I'm positive that some of them question if I have a "life".

And there have been a handful of instances where I just totally forgot (*cough* or fell asleep) about an assignment, and the aftermath is like someone unleashed friggin' Niagara Falls people. I mean, I'm in bed sobbing uncontrollably, thinking it's going to ruin my perfect GPA, thus, my scholarships will disappear, and oh-my-gosh, I bet my professor thinks I'm totally incompetent and now they won't like me...

I can get a little high strung when I'm incredibly stressed out. 

But the reality of those situations was this: They were like hitting a one on the on that scale we just talked about. However, it felt like a 7 to me. Partially because they were all scenarios when physical stress was present (i.e. lack of sleep and down time), but primarily because my security gets tied to the lie that I am solely what I do

And that right there, that's the root problem. That's what these emotional instances were saying was the truth of my heart condition. The problem was not that I had these slobbery, ugly cry fests; the problem was that I had been letting my heart feed off of a lie which for a while was disguised to me. Those scenarios with my assignments were what revealed the genuine colors of the lie.

You want to know what I hate feeling? I hate feeling weak. I hate feeling incompetent. I hate the idea that someone would think of me and think that I can't deliver what they need or asked me to do. I struggle with asking for help. I'm an oldest child, which means responsible is my middle name, and I'm the one who's supposed to be reliable ALL the time.

False Identity: I am what I do.
False Security: What I do is what is going to take care of me, therefore it's what I can trust.

Reality check...

True Identity: Because I am in Christ, I am a daughter of the King. Nothing I do or don't do can diminish this.
True Security: I can trust God with everything, because He's the one who takes care of me.


When our emotions are disproportionate to their matching situation or context we rewrite reality. Why? Because we all have to battle the lies that feed to us insecurities and fears, which then become magnified and inflated on our emotional scale.

And that's where I'm going to leave it today, 'cause like I said at the beginning: My head hurts now with trying to wrap it around all that.


  1. I just commented, but I'm not sure it went through. xoxo susan

    1. Um... hmm... doesn't seem to have gone through Susan


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