Don’t Be an Emotional Hostage

Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions. ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

My husband makes me so A-N-G-R-Y!

Those kids – I could just SCREAM!

You don’t understand what she/he DID! Oooooh, I just want to cry!

The situation at work is so shaky/stressful/bad, I’m just terrified/upset/mad!

Recognize any of these? In every situation, something or someone is controlling (or trying to control) what you think and how you feel. … So, how does THAT make you feel? Why would you allow yourself to become an emotional hostage?

Feelings come and go with alarming regularity. One moment, life is wonderful and you’re feeling great. A minute later, something happens, and you ‘feel’ depressed. Up and down, round and round, like a hostage on an emotional roller-coaster. I know it feels like you have no control of your life or your emotions, but that’s not true.

Let’s look at Deuteronomy 30:19 … I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life … We all recognize that stress, anger, unforgiveness and other negative emotions are part of the curse. God told us, however, that we should choose.

The real truth is, you – yes, YOU – are the only one who decides how you will feel or react in any situation. You have the power and ability to either focus on the problem/person/situation or to set it aside and choose differently.

Galatians 5:19-21 lists several ‘works of the flesh’. Included in that list of really bad stuff are some things we tend to tolerate: wrath (anger), hatred, strife and envy. Verse 21 ends this way: they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. We’re back to ‘you choose’. The kingdom of God includes love, joy, peace, patience, prosperity, wisdom; in other words, everything good. But you won’t experience the full measure of God’s blessings if you choose to let your emotions rule your life.

Now, I’m not saying it’s easy – just that it’s do-able. Consider this: you can only ‘feel’ one emotion at a time. And it’s important to remember that emotions are not independent; they follow your thoughts. If you change your thinking, you will change your emotions. Try this experiment.

The next time you ‘feel’ your emotions about to take a power-dive, change what you are thinking. Instead of playing the “why can’t they …” tape in your head, take responsibility for your own thoughts and emotions. Concentrate on something good about the person or situation. Or change your mental topic altogether! Find something else that captures your attention, your thoughts. You will discover that your emotions will follow.

For instance, I used to get frustrated when Hubby plopped in front of the TV at night while I had to fix dinner after a full day at work. In my head, I’m arguing, “We both work? And I probably work harder than he does. The least he could do is set the table! Why am I responsible for everything around here?” Of course, he doesn’t have a clue what I’m thinking. I’m the only one who is upset. And it’s all because of my thoughts!

I’ve learned to stop negative thoughts as soon as they start, refocus my thinking and recognize how blessed I really am. I change my internal conversation (and if you’ve been reading my articles for any time at all, you know what I tell myself – several times a day if necessary!). “OK, Lord, I’m not going there. You and me. You’re all I need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.  I am rooted and grounded in love. The joy of the Lord is my strength and Your grace is sufficient.” By the time I finish affirming my place and protection in the love of God, I’m grinning! His joy has released my negative emotions and set me free.

Did you notice how I did that? Yes, I do mutter it out loud. Jesus said, “Take no thought, saying …” When you speak those negative emotions, they gain strength and power. If you continually moan about your job, your spouse or your kids, the problems will get bigger and bigger. You have to exert enough self-control to keep your mouth shut! When you’d rather complain, claim a promise. God wants you to cast all your care on Him and trust Him to work out your problems. As you learn to trust Him, you’ll find His joy and peace.

Proverbs 23:7 says that as you think in your heart, so are you. If you allow your thoughts to be held hostage by anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness, moaning ‘poor me’ with a sigh, that’s exactly what you are – angry, bitter and miserable. I’m here to tell you, however, that you don’t have to stay there. You can choose to think (and speak) differently.

Here are four key focus-points to help you claim your emotional freedom.

  1. In everything, give thanks (I Thess. 5:18). Stay grateful. If your mind is busy counting your blessings, there is no room for negative emotions. Now, it doesn’t say FOR everything. There’s some ‘stuff’ that’s just not good. But there are things in your life that you can be grateful for, regardless of your situation. Focus on those.
  2. … forgive, if ye have aught against any …(Mark 11:25) No matter what happens ‘to’ you, it’s not worth your ill health to hold a grudge. Unforgiveness, resentment and anger affect only you. The other person is often unaware they have hurt you. You are the one lying awake at night, stressed out and angry. Set it aside. Forgive, for your own mental and physical well-being.
  3. think on these things (Phil. 4:8). Refocus. There is a list of suggestions in Philippians 4:8 of things to think about. They are all positive. Do something to take your thoughts away from your situation. Play some favorite tunes. Read a book. Call a friend (but don’t rehash your anger and frustration – keep it positive). Meditate on God’s love for you and the blessing in your life.
  4. I will bless thee … and thou shalt be a blessing (Gen. 12:2) Every gift, talent and blessing you have is designed to be shared. Pass it on! Be aware of little things you can do to brighten someone else’s day. Smile. Give a compliment. Perform small acts of kindness. Whatever you do well is your gift for the world. Share it. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel.

Your feelings are totally under your control. You can let them overwhelm your mind, or you can choose to use these refocus-points to overcome your negative emotions.

Here is one final thought. Most people do not get up in the morning looking for someone to offend, hurt, or anger. They are simply living their lives, immersed in their own problems and reacting without thinking. Give them the freedom to make mistakes, cut you off in traffic, or say the wrong thing. The Bible says God’s mercy is new every morning. As His children, we should offer the same grace.

Instead of frustration, be grateful you don’t have their problems. Forgive their thoughtlessness. And focus your day by looking for a way to bless, edify and uplift those around you. Your emotions will follow your thoughts, and you will find the peace and joy that God intended for you. Remember Jesus’ promise:  I came that you might have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). (John 10:10 AMP) Now that’s something to be happy about!

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