Picture this. A funeral of a young man, not even thirty-five years old. A father, stoic and expressionless. A sister, distraught, guilt-ridden. A sad scene, to be sure.
Nowhere but in the face of death are we assaulted by so many strong emotions, the tide of which is almost overwhelming.

For some, emotion is seen as a sign of weakness. Real men don’t cry is the unspoken mantra. Others put on a smiling face and pretend they’re happy, when inside, they are devastated. Then there are the two extremes: those who cannot control their emotions and those who numb themselves out, refusing to feel anything. Neither is healthy.

Where are you in this gamut of feelings?

I can say for much of my life I was told I was “too sensitive”. As a young child, I cried at the sight of dead chickens in the meat market case. I refused to step on my own shadow. Years passed, and I learned to stifle my feelings, believing the lie I had been taught. But then, I paid a high price. Failure to express our feelings takes a toll on our physical and mental well-being. I realized I needed to express my feelings – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And I was set free.

Emotions and feelings are a gift from God to help us deal with the situations and circumstances of life. They can motivate us to action and also drag us into the depths of despair if not dealt with. Suppressing our feelings is both unhealthy and unspiritual. When we refuse to express our feelings, we are denying who we are at our core.

Feelings tell us much about ourselves and the world around us. Take fear, for example. Fear comes in many forms, but in truly dangerous situations, it warns us to flee and to protect ourselves. We must listen to our feelings or we risk injuring ourselves even more. Grief and anger are two other emotions that must be expressed. If we keep them in, we will fall into depression.

But let’s remember the good emotions as well: love, joy, gladness, surprise, attraction. These also tell us something about ourselves and our world. We live in a hurting place and many feel unloved. A kind word, a compliment, a word of praise or encouragement is a simple act we can all do every day to spread a little more love. We never know what battles someone may be facing. Love and joy resonate at a higher energy level. Can you not feel it when you are around someone who is radiating these? It’s infectious and exhilarating. It’s uplifting. Yes, truly our emotions are keys to our spiritual growth.

So, as Valentine’s Day approaches, let’s each do our part to spread a little love around, shall we? What simple thing will you do to make the world a more joyful and loving place? To encourage a friend who may be down? I still give out those little Valentine’s Day cards we used to write as children to people at the office and neighbors. It’s silly, I know, but everybody needs to be reminded they are loved and if it brings a smile to someone’s face, then I’ve done my part. Will you do yours?

Until next time, keep the faith and keep looking up!

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