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Managing Your Emotions

How do you deal with your emotions and emotionally tense moments? The second week of my very first appointment out of seminary I called a lady who lost her husband the month before I arrived. This task was assigned to me (I was on staff as an associate pastor) as a kind of pastoral care “jump into the water” moment. I was nervous and at the end of my phone call I said, “Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.” This widow responded “How can you help me? You don’t even know me!” I mumbled an apology and hung up the phone. I’m pretty sure I went into a fetal position under my desk. I have and had then, too, thin skin. My embarrassment and anxiety were creating stress and I didn’t know how to handle it. I probably didn’t even know what to name that feeling much less handle it.

I participate in a reading group for United Methodist clergy in my district and this month we read and discussed the 12 year old Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. I understand that over the years there have been some real criticisms about the scholarship of this book but nevertheless there are some very helpful parts of this book. I learned a lot about identifying emotions – a very good first step – and am working on managing my emotions and how I react to them. It is not easy to do but I believe it is important to model for others emotional maturity as we grow as Jesus’ disciples. The way of the cross means a lot of dying and dying is not something that I often want to do. If I want to be a servant leader this is something we must pursue. If had reacted to the widow in the first paragraph in an emotionally mature way I might have been able to help her deal with her pain (NB: She same by the next day to apologize and hug my neck).

I have been keeping a journal of some sort since I was 13 years old and last night I took some time to read through a couple of old journals dating back to 2003 up through 2006. One of the things that I noticed about some of my entries is the immaturity of my emotional responses to people like my colleagues and even my wife. It’s only by God’s grace that I’ve grown considerably during the last few years. I still see a lot of room to grow but I’m confident knowing that God has begun a good work in me and that he will be faithful to complete it.

What areas of your emotional life do you need to yield to God as the Holy Spirit shapes you? Is there any emotion you are holding onto, unwilling to give up?

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