How are you doing today? Seriously. How are you feeling? Since you are asked that question, in one form or another, several times a day, it should be an easy question to answer. Yet, it is difficult when you attempt to answer the question honestly.
Even when you ask the question, you don’t always wait for an answer. If you are honest, you either don’t wait for an answer or you receive a perfunctory answer. Neither your question nor the answer is offered seriously. So, let me ask again, “How are you feeling today?”
How are you feeling?
You might deflect your feelings and hide behind figures of speech. When you are asked, “How are you doing?” Or “How are you feeling?” you might say, “On top of the world,” or “If I were any better, there would be two of me,” or “About half,” or “I’m down in the dumps,” or “I’m blue,” the list goes on.
Each statement allows you to evade having to confront, plainly and exactly, what you are feeling. Even though they are creative and descriptive, they often create a distance between your feelings and your words. Thus, creating a false perception of a relationship.
Over the past several weeks I have begun to be more aware of my emotions. I am learning that my feelings direct my thinking and if I am not honest with my feelings, I may not be making the best decisions for myself, my family, or for the people entrusted to my care.
Emotions in Scripture
Feelings are not foreign in the scripture. You do not have to look far in the Bible to see examples of people letting emotions lead them down certain paths. For example, Adam and Eve and their desire to be like God. Cain’s jealousy over God’s favor toward Abel’s sacrifice. Jesus’ anger when he overturned the tables in the temple.
What about King David and his lust for Bathsheba? His emotional needs led to the death of Uriah and ultimately to the death of this first child. It was only after David dealt with his selfish actions that he became “a man after God’s own heart.”
There are stories of strong emotions that led to life-changing decisions for the better. Mordecai’s public display of grief over the plight of his people and Esther’s courage to tell the king of a murderous plot. There were emotions like passion and anger to do good for others.
Saul of Tarsus, later Paul the Apostle, is an example of how negative emotions of anger and hatred can be transformed into positive emotions of love and leadership. He encouraged early followers of Jesus to live with positive emotions like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as opposed to negative emotions of jealousy, vengeance, and anger. He encouraged them to be forgiving and to deal with others with the love that Jesus had dealt with them.
Identify, Understand, and Express Emotions
We could go on. The scriptures are filled with stories of how feelings become thoughts which become actions expressed in both negative and positive ways.
With that in mind, during this stay at home order, you have time to identify and understand your feelings and to express them in positive and appropriate ways. You also have time to listen to the people with whom you are related, whether they be family or people in the church. As a leader, identifying, understanding, and expressing your feelings are important in developing trust and confidence in your leadership.
I’m not trying to add anything to your “to do” list, but I am suggesting that you look at your emotional condition. While you are at home these next few days, take time to reflect upon the following:
Recognize your feelings.
- Take a moment to stop and to discern your emotional current reality. When you are willing and able to recognize your own feelings, you will be able to recognize, more accurately, the feelings of others. This provides an opportunity to be curious and to listen more honestly.
- Your world has been turned upside down. You are stepping into a new normal. You might have feelings of sadness or loss. Even anger or disappointment. Once you have recognized these feelings within yourself, you will be more able to recognize the emotions in the people entrusted to your care. Your self-awareness will make you a better leader.
Understand your feelings.
- Why do you feel the way you feel? Understanding your emotions is an adventure. As you begin to understand “why” you feel the way you do, you also learn to understand “why” you react or respond to the feelings of others. This provides the opportunity to become vulnerable and to build trust in your relationships.
- Once you begin to understand “why,” you will be able to empathize with the people around you. Through understanding and empathy, you will become a better leader, as well as a better spouse, parent, friend, student, and colleague.
Express your feelings.
- This is where you not only have the courage to be honest, but you begin to express your feelings in healthy and productive ways. It is in the “give and take” of expressing your feelings that relationships are potentially strengthened.
- Again, it is important to know yourself. As you express your feelings you understand that you are stirring up feelings in someone else and vice versa. But the potential of understanding one another is there. This provides you, as a leader, the opportunity to be sensitive as you listen, share, receive, and respond.
Choose one emotion to work on this week.
- Write it down and intentionally focus on it. Give yourself permission to name it and to feel it. Ask a friend to partner with you. Then, ask for feedback on your growth.
You are more the leader God intends for you to be when you are emotionally healthy.
I once heard Mike Tyson say, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” What is true in the boxing ring is true in leadership. So, along with permission to feel, give yourself permission to fail. When you start recognizing, understanding and expressing your feelings, there will be moments of joy as well as anguish. When you lash out in anger, take a deep breath, and start again.
For you to become who God created you to be, you will need to be vulnerable and courageous. You will need to be kind to yourself and apologize when you fall short. The payoff is worth it: better health, better decision making, better relationships, and a better you.
So, let me ask again, seriously, “How are you feeling?” I’ll be looking for an answer next time.