Fully Living, Fully Loving
here's an old story about a school teacher who injured his back and had to wear a plaster cast around the upper part of his body. It fit under his shirt and was not noticeable.
On the first day of the term, still with the cast under his shirt, he found himself assigned to the toughest students in school. Walking confidently into the rowdy classroom, he opened the window as wide as possible and then busied himself with desk work. When a strong breeze made his tie flap, he took the desk stapler and stapled the tie to his chest.
Understandably he had no trouble with discipline that term.
Sometimes it would be nice if life were that simple; that is, if we could wear a plaster cast around our heart so our feelings wouldn't ever get hurt!
Not so. Life isn’t that simple. The problem is that when we put a cast or wall around our hurt feelings, that same cast also blocks out our warm and loving feelings! We turn into zombies. People with shut off emotions live flat-line lives and, instead of being personality-plus, they become more or less personality-minus.
We happen to be feeling beings. Can you imagine what life would be like without emotions? As another has said, it would be like playing a trombone with a stuck slide; that is, deadly dull and boring. The truth is that when our emotions are repressed we are characteristically bored with life.
I’ve led seminars and taught classes on relationships and recovery for many years and the number one complaint I hear from women on both sides of the Pacific is a variation on the theme, “My husband doesn’t understand my feelings and doesn’t share his.” No wonder so many relationships fall apart at the seams. Without being in touch with one’s inner self (his/her emotions) there is no intimacy and no real closeness. Such couples live together alone apart—and their relationship dies a little every day.
Furthermore, when we hide and subsequently bury our feelings, we never bury them dead but very much alive. In so doing, in one way or another they come back to taunt us. What we fail to talk out creatively, we inevitably act out destructively in one way or another. We can act them out by lashing out in anger or hostility at others and those we love the most. We can withdraw and go into silence when we are hurt or angry, which is an equally “dirty way to fight.” We can go into depression, suffer from anxiety attacks, ruin our relationships, set ourselves up to fail, and/or become physically ill. As John Powell put it, “When we bury our emotions, our stomach keeps score.” How true this is.
As I’ve often said, by the time I was five I had learned that "big men" don't cry so I learned early in life to stuff my feelings, and by the time I was thirty-five, I suffered from miserable hay fever, and had bursitis in both shoulders I couldn’t lift my arms above my shoulders without pain. Worse still, while I had plenty of friends, close relationships were non-existent. My marriage of 25 years turned out to be a disaster. Two repressed people living together do not make for a healthy relationship; in fact, they don’t have any kind of meaningful relationship.
Even though professionally I was doing okay, relationally I was at a loss and emotionally I constantly felt empty and had no idea what my problem was. I just knew I needed help. I had grown up with the belief that feelings weren’t important and couldn’t be trusted. In spite of this, I was so frustrated I got down on my knees and asked God to give me some feelings back anyhow. Oh boy, that prayer turned my world upside down and made praying for patience look like a Sunday school picnic. It took considerable pain to break through my cast-like defenses.
5. All articles on the ACTS International website are by Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise noted.
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