Go with your gut. Follow your heart. Trust your feelings — right? If I lived according to my Twitter feed – absolutely! But where would that really take me?
We all have occasional (or more than occasional) splits between our “thinking truth” and our “feeling truth”. For example, my thinking truth about a serial killer is that he or she is a broken human, still made in the image of God, with the gift of complete grace extended and waiting his or her acceptance. My feeling truth is a little more human. Being alone in a room with them would make me feel scared and probably sickened.
Or consider an extended family holiday dinner. You arrive in thinking mode. This is my family. I love them. We are all grownups now. And then, one snide political comment later, you and your brother are exchanging nasty sarcastic remarks reminiscent of your teenage trauma years. What the heck? Do you and your family love each other or not?
So which one reveals our real personal truth – thinking response or feeling response? I used to believe that feeling brain always held the trump card as it exposes what is true in our core. I still believe that our feeling responses can be useful and telling, but many times those responses tell only of our baser selves – not the self we desire to be – not the self we are growing into.
When we are hit with unexpected emotional chaos, it triggers our fight or flight response. In our house, that usually means he fights and I fly. It dredges up the ancient remnants we thought we finally buried deep enough. Both fight and flight responses are equally self-centered, with the understandable, innate goal of self preservation. These reactions are legit and reflect a real part of us, but they only tell a fraction of the story.
I am now convinced there is more merit or truth to the “thinking” responses. During an emotional storm, grace gives the benefit of the doubt to me and to others. Feelings come and go. People can change. Most of us are changing, or at least we desperately want to be. Making judgments about one’s character in the middle of a fight or flight moment is unlikely to promote healing and reconciliation when things settle down.
Thinking response zone is where my beliefs rest the majority of the time. At this stage of life, it is my chosen, mindful truths that serve as a steady compass. I have learned the hard way that although my emotions sometimes help and inform, they can also distract and destroy. They should be regarded with great caution, especially in the middle of life’s chaos.
When emotions calm, my mind can step back and acknowledge that the hurt caused by feeling responses is a part of reality, and this reflection is important. It brings humility, reminds me of my weak spots, helps me be vulnerable, and prods me to reconsider the trigger circumstance in a healthier way.
Because I continue to have patterns of self-destructive feeling responses – usually set off by haunting insecurities – I need to pay attention and possibly make some different choices about the way I am living. But I would never want to make those choices out of fear or shame. I want to make decisions about my priorities and my family based on the true and better me I am growing into.
On the days when my feelings and thoughts are as mismatched as the socks from my latest load of laundry, I can choose to lay both sides down at the feet of my steadfast God and trust in something far bigger than any part of myself.