Monday, June 6, 2011

Regret #3

Today we look at Regret #3 in our list of the "Top 5 Regrets" that people have on their deathbed.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Last fall my wife and I took a course at ChangePoint called “The Heart and Life of Every Follower.” It is based around Chip Dodd’s book “Voice of the Heart” and was taught by Lee Hudson (our worship pastor) and Jeff Schulte from Sage Hill Institute.

I have been through several classes and courses at church, but this one was different. I normally finish a class feeling like it was “worth it.” I am a little better husband, a little smarter with my money, a little more knowledgeable about the Bible, etc…etc…etc….

But at the end of this course I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t think that it was “worth it.” I felt like it was 100% necessary, completely crucial and totally critical that I was there. There is not a day that has gone by in the 6 months that have passed since the end of the class that I have not gone back to what I discovered there.

What did this class deal with? Well, it dealt with a lot of things. But mostly, it dealt with “feelings.”

Feelings are something that we all have, sort of our “natural reaction” to life. When a doctor does a reflex test on your knee, and he taps your knee cap, your leg kicks out. You didn’t do anything for that to happen, it just reacted. The same is true of all of us. When life happens, we react.

The problem is that we believe certain feelings are “bad,” even though we all experience them and often they seem to just “happen.”

In the class we focused on 8 key feelings: Anger, Fear, Hurt, Sad, Lonely, Guilt, Shame & Gladness.

These are feelings that every person reading this blog has experienced. A lot.

When you read that list do you feel like some of those are “bad” feelings? So did I. And what do we do with those? Well, we try and limit the “bad” feelings and “grow” the good feelings. So I try and be less angry, less fearful, less hurt, etc…. There is only one problem with that approach: LIFE.

The reality is that we will all experience Anger, Fear, Hurt, Sadness, Loneliness, Guilt, Shame and Gladness, so instead of trying to get rid of those feelings or “grow” past them, why don’t we realize that those are part of life and instead look at how we respond to those feelings?

When I am angry, does it turn into rage/depression, or passion? Those are very different things.

When I am hurt does it turn into resentment? Or do I allow healing to happen and courage to grow?

When I am sad does it turn into self-pity? Or do I accept it and allow myself to be “OK with what is not OK”?

When I feel guilty does it turn into toxic shame? Or do I experience freedom and forgiveness?

And that list goes on… and on… and on….

What I am learning is that all of these feelings are good and healthy, and we all experience them, daily.

This has been an incredibly healing and freeing process for my wife and me. If you talk to my wife she will tell you the “Adam” before the class is not the same as the “Adam” after the class.

One of the biggest ways that I am changing is that I realize that these feelings are good for us to have. So when my wife is sad, or fearful, I no longer try and rescue her. I used to see her that way and come in and try to “make everything better.” The problem is that never lets her be honest about where she is and what she is feeling. So instead of “having the answer” I let her be, knowing that there is more victory in her “feeling” than in me “rescuing.”

It has also caused us to look at things in our past and see ways that we have been hurt by people and see how we dealt with it… or didn’t deal with it. It was interesting how at times we are both were people who would rather bury it, not deal with our feelings and move on, hoping that the situations would get better and those feelings would just go away. However the truth is, when we sit and talk about those hurts, there are still A LOT of feelings right below the surface. They haven’t left… and they never will, unless we are willing to address the feelings, acknowledge the hurt and let healing happen.

So, what does this have to do with the regret listed above? When I saw that the regret was “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings”, I realized that before I can truly express my feelings to others, I have to first be willing to be honest about how I am really feeling to myself. If I can’t be honest with myself, I am certainly not going to be honest with you.

I believe that this is such a common regret because we have become a culture that so often self-medicates that we have forgotten how to "feel."

That is the journey that my wife and I are on, and it is beautiful, and messy, and painful, but what we are experiencing because of it makes it all worth it.

Be willing to “feel” life, and be honest about your feelings.

It isn’t easy, it can be full of fear, but that is OK. Being honest about your feelings isn’t going to kill you, even if it feels like it is going to.

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