Written by: Kolby Nance
In my last blog post, I wrote about connecting in relationship. While ‘Connecting’ is a vague term and often can be a mysterious concept, it is something that we all long for. We all deeply long to feel connected to others and God. Belonging is one of the most basic human desires and needs. As I tried to give dignity to the concept of connecting with others, it is often a lost art of how to live fully and abundantly in relationship. Many will make attempts to belong or connect with others with the best of intentions only to discover that they felt dismissed, misunderstood and distant from those around them. In this blog and in the next eight to follow, I want to offer a road map of how to connect with others and God more deeply. The road that leads to connection is to gain not only understanding but also expression of our emotions. I realize that many of you who just read the last line, felt a sense of fear. We live most of our lives trying to deny or distance ourselves from the way that feel. We are terrified of actually beginning to become familiar with what is going on in our hearts. However, this is the primary gift that God has given us to move toward others in relationships. Take a quick inventory of how many times Jesus talks about the heart throughout the gospel. Pay attention to the several discourses throughout the New Testament where heavy emotional language is used to communicate the love and longing of God. I hope I am clearly communicating that the very feelings we are trying to deny are the most important aspect of meaningfully connecting with others.
“The Voice of the Heart”, by Dr. Chip Dodd ended up being a landmark book in my life. Through much of his teaching, I began to understand that my emotions were a dignified gift from God that would allow me to engage Him more deeply in prayer and would be the very avenue to meaningfully connect with others in relationship. Chip Dodd states, “God created you and me as emotional and spiritual creatures – created to live fully in relationship with ourselves, with others, and with God. We are image bearers of God, actually stamped in our hearts with a hunger to live fully. However, this hunger cannot be gratified unless we are emotionally and spiritually nourished by relationships.” Emotions are the language of relationships. We actually learned the language of emotions far before developing the cognitive abilities to have the most basic conversation. Watch an infant with its mother, watch a young boy play a sport with his father in the stands, and remember what it felt like to be a kid. By feeling and sharing our emotions we become relatable. We also become vulnerable, which tends to stop us from continuing down the road of feelings and relationship. It’s our longings, desires, and needs lead us to desperately want relationship and emotions are the language of the heart that allows connection. There is a tragic amount of energy spent by most to either repress what they are feeling or squelch the emotions of others around them. I am suggesting that maybe for the first time you actually consider your emotions as a gift rather than a curse.
Dr. Dodd suggests that there are 8 core emotions that every humanbeing can experience. Those 8 emotions are; Sad, Anger, Fear, Lonely, Hurt, Shame, Guilt, and Glad. There are several different expressions of these eight core emotions but these represent the few primary just as there are primary colors and different shades and combinations thereof. There are several different theories regarding how many core emotions there actually are but for our purposes, I will be referencing the work of Dr. Dodd.
I hope to take the next eight blog posts and systematically walk through these eight core emotions that Dr. Dodd identifies. My prayer and hope isn’t that by reading these blogs your intellect would be stirred as much as it is that you would experientially consider each emotion. That you would begin feeling rather than denying or repressing. As you begin to embrace all of the movement within your heart, that you would embrace the feeling, and share it with a few trusted friends. Sharing our true feelings can be one of the most vulnerable experiences but at the same time can be the most life-giving. By embracing our emotions and sharing them with others we begin to connect in relationship and more deeply experience the way that God intended us to live.