Friday, May 27, 2011
I don't know about you, but I'm a pretty reserved guy. Well, I say that, but I know how to be crazy too. But when it comes to sharing my feelings, I typically keep them in. The thinking goes, "I know I'm dealing with x, y AND z, but I know that they MUST be dealing with a, b and c [notice that all of a sudden I can read the other person's mind], so they don't need me dumping on them." So I find a place to squash x, y and z in, and try to forget it, and don't ever deal with how I'm feeling, whether it's frustration over a hurt (real or perceived), anger, sadness, etc.
So I've been forced to realize lately how much I do that, and how dangerous it can be. I work with a great guy at a great church, with wonderful staff both in and out of 'ministry.' We've got lots of financial support for our ministry, maybe even too much, and we've got parents all over who actually WANT to step in and help out, maybe even too much. Just kidding. But over the last year and a half, between some changes in his life, and some changes at home, and then just my "natural" way of handling my emotions, there's been an unhealthy build-up of bad feelings, just on my own end, that weren't getting dealt with. And that meant that there were days in the office where I'd just be angry/frustrated/sad, for no good reason, except that those feelings I thought I had packed away for good were coming out and manifesting themselves.
Like I said, I was forced to recognize this about myself and was even charged by some of my shepherds to do something about it. As I was sitting telling them how I was feeling (only because I was forced to), my eyes started creating a salty discharge -- Seinfeld reference for everyone who didn't recognize it -- and I found that those repressed feelings were making more of an impact on me than I realized. And when I talked to the other youth minister, there was such a weight that lifted. Yeah, I'm sure I'll still get frustrated, but I've committed to him that I'll always be honest about how I'm feeling.
So, you might be thinking, "I'm glad this is Donovan's getting this off his chest, but what does this have to do with me?" Well, I think we sometimes do this when we get off the field, or when we leave Lubbock, or when we're dealing with life. We think that because we've had ALL this Bible training and mission experience, and we're SO mature, then we should be able to handle our feelings better than so-and-so. Or we think that the person in front of us is dealing with all kinds of junk (and they probably are, in reality), so we shouldn't dump on them and give them more to worry about. But there's two dangers. One, for you, is that you don't get to process your true feelings, and they start to weigh you down. Two, the other person doesn't really know what you're feeling, so they can't deal with you on a real level.
So my encouragement is to share how you're feeling. Talk about your experiences on the field. It may not feel like it, but you'll find people who want to hear your story. Yeah, there will be folks who are too busy, or too consumed with their own stuff, to be able to give you all their attention right now, but don't let that stop you. And be sure to share your feelings in love. Don't get ugly about it. Remember that the way they are seeing things is going to be completely different from the way you see it, and you need to be compassionate and understanding to them just the way you want them to be to you. And don't forget that you have a whole community of 25+ years of folks who have been through similar experiences, a lot of them a click away on Facebook, who would love to share your burden.
Have you experienced the freeing & healing that comes from sharing your hidden feelings?
- Donovan Fox