Those words came out of my mouth and a very concerned look wrinkled my wife’s lovely face. I suppose it would bother me, too, if I heard this from someone I loved and weren’t entirely sure what they meant. Weirdly, however, I had already been thinking about this very thing.
I realized that I was uncomfortable with emotions at a very young age. Even though they had a power to lift up, as well as lay low, they seemed to favor low-laying. I have watched emotions do strange things to people and it began to occur to me that perhaps feelings weren’t entirely safe. Perhaps people with strong emotions weren’t safe either. I had some experience with that one.
How this works out in everyday life for me can be most clearly seen in how I respond to a speaker. It might be someone who is addressing a crowd or merely sitting across the lunch table from me. I remember watching a DVD of John Eldredge (the “Wild at Heart” guy) who is very dramatic and animated in his presentation. All around me men were transfixed by this guy’s passion and message. All I could focus on was how his eyebrows made a little triangle when he’d really get worked up. ADD. I used to think that it was just my ADD that caused me to withdraw from someone who was highly expressive. I thought that I just couldn’t process all that input. I imagine there is a healthy dose of that working but, by itself, the ADD doesn’t tell the whole story.
Strangely, I sometimes come across passionate people who don’t make me uncomfortable in the least. It is this oddity that propelled me into a meditation of the difference. In face to face communication there is the content and there is how the content effects the speaker. There is also what the speaker is attempting with their communication. For me it turns upon which is the cake and which is the icing. If the speaker is, himself, animated by the import of his own thoughts and words, then the expression, however passionate is simply an invitation to enter in. This is very different from one who would seize me by some exposed place and drag me to their point. For all my suppression (repression?) of personal emotion I actually am a very passionate person and maybe that is what I don’t want to be available to the general public.
Christ taught that we should let our “yes be yes” and our “no be no” and whatever was beyond that was evil. If we move people with our words, let it be on account of the truth in the words. Let us not become clever at finding an emotional handle on others by which we can work our will. Even our admirable desire to see others feel better should look past their expressions of heart to the heart itself and its needs. For my money, love, truth and perspective beats humor, distraction and manipulation in restoring the languishing soul.
So I guess is it’s OK to cheer me, but not my feelings, up. Let he who has ears to hear……