Anyone who knows me knows that I have a lot of feelings. I remember laying on the couch watching The Santa Clause for the first time last year and experiencing approximately 7 different emotions at the same time. I think I freaked my male teammates out a little bit. My current teammates can tell you multiple stories of tears shed in the office due to different touching/beautiful/sad moments. Yeah, yeah, it's because I'm a woman - whatever. I like to look to my girl Zooey on this one:
I love this quote from Zooey because I think I have been told that my emotions are bad.
Recently, my friend Matt made a comment that emotions are bullshit. When I went home that night, I realized I was really mad at him for that comment. So I vented to Jesus and I realized it was because I took what he said personally. And then I was annoyed at myself for feeling that.
I think what is hard about emotions is that when we feel something, especially if we feel it intensely, we think we have to act. However, simply following everything that our heart desires is an extreme and will not lead to you making the best choice you could make for yourself. The opposite of this extreme is to view emotions as 100% bad (or BS as Matt would say) and simply live in our heads. We need to understand that our emotions are not bad. Jesus had emotions! He cried, He got angry, and most of all He loved. Yet He did not let these feelings rule His choices.
I think we each naturally gravitate towards one of these two extremes. We can shut off and completely ignore our feelings and over analyze everything - this is being driven by our intellect. Or we can lean towards being emotion driven. This is what we do when we follow the different ebbs and flows of our heart in each passing moment.
The trouble with following one extreme over the other is this: if we shut out our emotions we lose the ability to know and understand the deep desires that God has placed on our heart, and if we only follow the emotional highs we can easily chose a lesser good. Our intellect does not have the ability to see what your heart feels, but our heart does not have the ability to order goods, it simply seeks to love and be loved.
We need to work to find a balance. We need to learn to pay attention to what our hearts are telling us, but we need to learn how to reconcile that with our intellect, what we know to be good and True.
But what does listening to your heart and reconciling that with your intellect and your will look like!? It does not mean justifying what you feel. It means listening to Jesus, taking what you know to be intellectually True and fitting what you're feeling into that. Sometimes this will mean we have to walk away from things that our hearts are still attached to. But other times it means we can follow our hearts. The goal is to make a choice and live in a place where our hearts and intellect are aligned.
Unfortunately, this is going to look different for everyone. My balance between my heart and my head is going to look different from yours. But the first step to figuring out that balance is silence.
The other beautiful thing about this situation is this: if you truly love God and are in communication with Him, you can do what you want. Seriously. This is a thing!
Last year my disciple Amy told me that "Love God and do whatever you please" was a quote from St. Augustine. I laughed at her and told her that was relativism. She then explained to me that it's not (my students were so much holier than me). Here's the whole quote:
"Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love of God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved."
If you really love Jesus, that means you're in a real, personal, relationship with Him. To be in a relationship with Jesus means that you are communicating with Him, listening to Him, and learning what He wants. If there is a good desire on your heart that is not evil, and you are talking to Jesus and a good spiritual guide about it, you can (probably) move forward with it.
A recent example of this is my life was last year when I started feeling a desire to join the FOCUS Events Team. I was so torn up over this decision, I really wanted it, but did God!!?? I had no idea. Back and forth I went, until one day, my super holy spiritual director told me to forget about what God wanted for my life for a minute and asked me to consider what I wanted. I told her that I wanted to join the events team. Her response: "okay, then join the events team."
Here's the thing: God is now blessing that decision. I know I could still be in Nebraska living out life as an on campus missionary and God would be blessing that decision just as abundantly. This isn't to say that God doesn't have a plan for our lives - He does! And it will be an incredible plan beyond our wildest imagination! This just means that we are using the gifts God gave us by properly using faculties and our free will! (Check out my friend Caitlin's sweet post about free will in our dating lives.)
So, in conclusion...
Emotions are not bad. Our hearts are the maps that show us God's will for our lives; our heads are the tools for navigation.
Don't beat yourself up for having negative emotions (Remember Jesus got angry too). Feeling angry, sad, or whatever is not a sin. How we choose to act on our feelings is how we will be judged. And don't get catch up in the back and forth of trying to figure everything out: take what you feel under advisement and then act. If your choice is wildly out of line with God's plan for your life, we must trust that He will correct it.