Do you ever feel like you’re keeping a secret from yourself? Like there’s something you know you want to do or say, but you don’t know what it is or how to say it aloud. When my feelings remain unclear to me, I have a bad habit of simply brushing them aside. If I don’t know what it is, then it must not be that important, right? So, I allow these vague longings to remain bottled up under the surface. And the longer I stay out of touch with myself, the more the unidentified feelings grow.
After contemplating this, I realized that, for me, anxiety is a result of being disconnected from my spirit for too long. How can we live our best, most joyful life if we have secret longings that are consistently ignored? We simply cannot. We must address all emotions – the good and the bad – feeling them and working with (or through) them.
The other day, I realized I was playing out this habit again. I knew that I had some negative things to say about a situation, but I scolded myself into quieting down. Still, the nagging persisted, and my spirit started to hurt. Because when I tell myself that I shouldn’t feel a certain way, it’s the equivalent to telling myself that I need to be different. And telling myself that I need to be innately different is an impossible task to expect myself to ever achieve. At a certain point, we must face ourselves for who we really are, embracing our spirit. I will judge myself for having negative thoughts, believing that I should be nicer and more accepting. But I’m learning that I can’t learn or grow or breathe life into a place of negativity if I’m hiding it! It’s only after we face and embrace our faults that we can progress. Otherwise, we will just stay the same because we won’t realize what needs work.
Tim Keller’s sermon The Wounded Spirit addresses this enigma, noting that we do not see ourselves clearly; only God understands our true motives. This really hit home for me, because it explained why I can’t always identify my emotions or motives. It also made me take a step back and for the first time I didn’t assume that I knew everything about myself.
So, I faced myself. I prayed that I could be honest with myself. And it was only after I opened the door to honesty that my true feelings presented themselves. This is the most important aspect of living well and authentically. Instead of scolding myself for having an opinion and holding it inside where it could eat at my spirit slowly, tormenting me and causing me anxiety, I said it aloud to myself. I paced around my backyard, thinking and talking to myself and working through the problem. If you had seen me, you would have thought that I was crazy. But the truth is that this action kept me sane. Because as soon as I poured out the bitterness, I was free of it. I felt better; I felt happy.
At the end of the day, the longing of my heart is to be understood. When I neglect to hear what it has to say, there can be no greater disservice.