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How to help someone talk about their feelings

How to help someone talk about their feelings

Unsplash/Keenan Constance

God made us emotional beings

Have you ever yelled at someone in anger, or wallowed in self-pity? While we may not like the so-called negative feelings such as anger and sadness, our emotions are nonetheless part of who we are and how God made us.

Our Creator is a God of emotions. John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us that “there are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him”. Since we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), it is not surprising that we, too, are emotional creatures.

Why emotions are a good thing

Can you imagine what life would be like if you had no emotions? No pleasure from drinking a glass of icy cold lemonade on a hot sunny day? No exhilaration from riding in a roller coaster racing down a steep slope at 120mph? No satisfaction from your greatest accomplishment? Each new day will just be yet another bland, colorless 24 hours.

But emotions do more than add colors to our lives. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). God did not regret creating us as emotional beings. In fact, his conclusion was that “it was very good”.

When emotions are bad

The so-called negative emotions that we sometimes experience, such as sadness, are not necessarily bad. Even Jesus wept (John 11:35). And before Jesus’ crucifixion, he told three of his disciples at the Garden of Gethsemane, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:38).

What is bad is when we try to deny our emotions instead of expressing and handling them appropriately. The animated movie “Inside Out” illustrates this perfectly. 11-year-old Riley felt sad when her family moved from Minnesota to San Francisco because of her father's new job, so Joy (personified) tried to protect Riley by blocking out Sadness (personified). The situation spirals out of control until Sadness saved the day when Riley tearfully confessed to her parents that she missed Minnesota and her old life.

Dealing with our emotions

It is not always easy for us to express our emotions. Sometimes it is out of fear of being judged. Other times it may be that we do not wish to upset or trouble our loved ones. Whatever the reason, we must realize that keeping our emotions bottled up often makes things worse in the end.

We can always talk to God about anything that troubles us. The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 55:22, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” God loves us and is always there for us.

Very often, it is helpful that we also talk to our loved ones about the way we feel. They can help us see things from a different perspective and help us resolve our issues. But even if they do not, at least we do not feel all alone.

Helping our loved ones deal with their emotions

While not all of us are trained professional counsellors, there are things that we can do to help a loved one who is experiencing some negative emotions.

  • Pray for your loved one. Ask God for comfort and to help the person deal with the emotions.
  • Pray for yourself. Ask God to help you be a good listener, and for wisdom in knowing what to say and do.
  • Be patient. Your loved one may need some time to open up to you and to resolve the emotions and issues. Take time to gradually build relationships. (Board games are great for bringing people together. Check out these popular Bible board games.)
  • Be available. Sometimes all your loved one need is your comforting presence.
  • Create a safe environment. Let your loved one know that he/she can trust you. Do not be count on you for support. Do not be too quick make comments, give advice or, worse, pass judgment. Sometimes it is best to simply listen.

Some people, especially children and teens, may have difficulty expressing and dealing with their emotions. A good activity to break the ice and lead to a discussion on emotions is Emoji Story. Download, print and cut up the Emoji Story Cards, and give 10 Emoji cards to each team of 2 to 6 players. Have each team make up a story using as many of the Emoji cards as possible. Award points for each Emoji card used and for the most creative story.

Emotions are important and they help us navigate life in a meaningful and purposeful manner, and to reflect the nature and glory of God. God placed us on the Earth as his representatives, to “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26). Without love, we will not be able to show compassion to the poor, the orphans and the widows. Without anger, we will not be prompted to stand up for justice for the foreigners and the marginalized.

All our emotions are God-given. So when we experience “negative” emotions, we must not sweep them under the carpet but deal with them appropriately.

Alvin Gan is the father of three noisy (but lovely) teenagers and founder of 2 websites that provide creative evangelism and discipleship resources.

www.LetTheLittleChildrenCome.com specializes in unique child evangelism tools and resources to help convey the plan of salvation for kids effectively.

www.BibleGamesCentral.com develops Bible games for youths, kids and even adults to teach spiritual truths.

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