How wise are you with your emotions? We hear everything from “you can’t control your feelings” (you can) to “what you feel can’t be wrong” (really?) to “it doesn’t matter what you feel”. I don’t think any of these are a great picture of “love the Lord your God with all your heart.” This chapter in Proverbs gives us some great insights about emotions.
First, we need to make the right choices, no matter what we feel (vv.1-2), and tell the truth, even if we are angry or frustrated (v.5). Guilt is real, and something we are supposed to feel when we do wrong (v.9). Don’t pretend to fully understand how someone else is feeling, or to expect someone else to fully understand you (v.10) – that is why God is our Comforter and Counselor. Sometimes people are covering up their emotions (v.13), so be willing to go deeper with them. And don’t lose your temper – it leads to hurt relationships, and bad decisions (vv.17, 29).
This chapter is not exhaustive teaching about emotions, but it gives us some great wisdom to work on today. For me, the challenge is to control my anger. Anger is not wrong, and it does matter that I feel it. Anger is an indication that something is not right in the world. I may be angry at injustice, or the oppression of others. That is good anger, but it still needs to be controlled and motivate me to godly action. More often, though, my anger is about feeling that someone has wronged me. That happens all the time – not because people mean to be mean, but because I am super sensitive … about me. Anger reveals how self-centered my emotions are – I am angry that the world does not work the way I want, that people don’t talk to me the way I want, etc. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stand up for ourselves or have godly boundaries or accept abuse. It means we don’t start by thinking “If I am angry, it must mean YOU are wrong.” In fact, I have found that when I am angry, most often I am the one who has something wrong inside. If I slow down, and pray, and ask God why I am angry – I usually can work it through and find His peace before I open my mouth and ruin everything.