What is an “emotion?”  Are emotions and feelings synonyms?  These two terms are dynamically related, and knowing their differences can assist you in knowing yourself better.  An emotion is a full body, physiological experience. Your heart rate, blood pressure, sweat gland activation, digestion, hormone secretion, and breathing patterns are part of “emotions.”  These physiological responses are triggered by the areas of your brain, whose job it is to detect danger and safety in your environment [aka: limbic system].  These physiological experiences start out of your awareness in response to commands from your brain’s limbic system.  When you give a name to these physiological signals, you now have a “feeling.”  You don’t have to consider yourself a “touchy-feely” kind of person to benefit from greater awareness of your emotions, and to be able to name feelings.  If you don’t listen to your emotions when they whisper, they will soon increase in intensity and become too “loud” for you to ignore. 

How attuned to your emotions are you?  How robust is your feeling vocabulary? 

Thrive in Five 

  1. Thank God for your emotional life.  Family therapist, Sue Johnson, describes emotions as the “music” of relationships.  Our positive emotions energize us, open doors to creative thinking, and to connecting more deeply with others.  Our negative emotions alert us to danger [e.g., anxiety, fear] and may activate us to take corrective action.  The scriptures describe our Heavenly Father as one with emotions.  God is jealous for our allegiance and loyalty (Ex 20:3-6).  He also loves us with an everlasting and faithful love.  Jesus showed compassion to the crowds (Mt 14:14), but was angry with hypocritical Pharisees (e.g., Mt 12:34).  Jesus wept (Jn 11).  Can you praise God that God created you an emotional being?  Can you thank God for your emotions?
  2. Reflect on your emotional roots.  People differ in their sensitivity to the physical changes that point to emotional experiences.  These different sensitivities began in your family of origin.  Take a moment to reflect on which emotional expressions were valued in your family of origin.  What emotional expressions were accepted and what emotional expressions were unacceptable? Who was allowed to express what emotions?  What emotions were children permitted to express?  Parents?  How have you carried these patterns into your adulthood?  Your ministry?  How have these patterns served you or gotten in your way?  Can you take some time to reflect on how your family modeled emotional expression?  
  3. Evaluate how adult experiences have shaped your emotional life.  Your adolescent peers and subsequent adult experiences also contributed to the shape of your emotional life.  For example, peer pressure may have led to “hiding” your stronger emotional expressions to avoid ridicule, or just the opposite, giving unrestricted expression to your emotions to gain peer approval. Maybe your home life and your high school years were so painful that you “shut down” in order to survive emotionally, or you resorted to substances [e.g., alcohol or drugs] to blunt your pain.  On the other hand, maybe you married into a family with a different belief about emotional expression than your own family.  How would you describe the impact of your adolescent and subsequent adult experiences on your beliefs about emotions and your expression of emotions?
  4. Appraise your emotional range.  All of our emotions have levels of intensity: low, medium, and high.  All of our feelings have names.  You may allow a full expression of your emotions or you may bottle them up.  You may be able to name all of your feelings as they arise or you may have limited emotional awareness and a limited feeling vocabulary.  You may be comfortable giving voice to some feelings and uncomfortable sharing others.  You may even be afraid to have specific emotions (e.g., anger, sadness) because you are not sure you can manage them well.  With which emotions/feelings are you most comfortable? Least comfortable?  How accurate and diverse is your feeling vocabulary?
  5. Assess your stewardship of your feelings.  Because God created you as an emotional being, God also gave you the responsibility to “steward” your emotional expressions wisely.  Emotional stewardship includes (a) your awareness of when you are experiencing emotions, (b) naming them as feelings [at least to yourself] and (c) determining “how much” and “what sort of” expression of your feelings are appropriate for this setting at this moment in time.  The parable of the talents (Mt. 25: 14-30) may be an analog for your reflection. What insights about your emotional stewardship can you glean from Mt 25:14-30? 



Peace Amandi, Why Do I Feel Like This?, Ch 1: The Danger of Spiritual Bypassing, IVP, 2021. 

Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Leader, Ch 1: The emotionally Unhealthy Leader, Zondervan 2015 

The Difference Between Feelings and Emotions.  https://counseling.online.wfu.edu/blog/difference-feelings-emotions/#:~:text=A%20fundamental%20difference%20between%20feelings,the%20depths%20of%20their%20emotions. 

Knowing the Difference Between Emotions, Feelings, and Moods https://youtu.be/_pbdqgXWxBQ 

ABCs of Emotions https://youtu.be/XGwJwIDJ9LU