While watching Sesame Street with my daughter I noticed a little girl playing with a jack-in-the-box toy. She turned the crank, round and round, while the music chimed on…”Pop!” out came the clown. She responded with giggling surprise. My daughter giggled and exclaimed, “That scared me!”
Much like the jack-in-the-box, our emotions “pop up” at times. And when they do “pop up” it can be shocking and disorienting—“Where did that come from?!”
Intense emotions are usually the ones that grab our attention.
A few weeks ago my anger “popped” up…in a big way.
I felt tired from lack of sleep—>crank.
Someone I love said something that hurt and I didn’t want to face the pain—>crank.
I allowed comparative thoughts to go unchecked about why I’m not “successful” and why everyone else is—>crank.
I noticed my own irrational response to my kids and turned that anger on myself too—>crank.
Crank. Crank. Crank. Pop!
“I’ve had enough! I can’t make one more meal or do one more dang dish! I’m so tired of getting no where…” I sat down on the couch, put my head in my hands and cried. Everything I held back, ignored, and pushed aside—erupted. Earlier in the day my husband Tim had noticed that I was having a difficult time. He offered to adjust his schedule to give me some time alone—“No…I’m okay. I’ve got stuff to do.”
Tim sat down next to me and patiently listened. He encouraged me to take time to care for myself. I needed that. I was so cranked up it was difficult for me to give myself what I really needed.
What’s really going on?
Through tears and conversation I poured out my heart. My anger wasn’t really about the dishes or cooking. In fact anger wasn’t at the core of what was really going on.
I spent that needed alone time finding my way back to my heart. Identifying and acknowledging what I felt. I acknowledged what I needed under the hurt, anger, and confusion.
What I needed was rest. To be gentle with myself. And in THAT space my heart became soft. With a soft heart I could see what was true and I could receive God’s presence and hear his voice of love.
God had been inviting me all along to enter into this place. At each “crank” He was there, offering me comfort and a fresh perspective. But I was too busy muscling my way through productivity—ignoring all the signs and cues which rendered me motionless. Unable to move ahead with integrity. I was hurting and going at a pace that isn’t good for my heart.
This wasn’t my first “pop” and I try to live as if it will be my last. With an attitude of hope that with practice I will make progress and instead avoid the “pop” entirely.
Sometimes we act as if our emotions can be “toyed” with. Like they can be cranked and cranked and cranked…ignored, pushed aside, pummeled…pretending that everything is “okay” and expect that there won’t be any consequences to ourselves or the people around us. Some people live their entire lives in this loop. Round and round, rejecting what’s important within and ignoring the serious business of their hearts. Cranking and popping. Cranking and popping.
What’s the alternative?
Emotionally courageous people make it a habit of noticing emotions, acknowledging what’s really going on, showing themselves compassion, and being open to new perspectives.
Emotionally courageous people pay attention to their hearts. They slow down. Identify and cast aside the “shoulds” of the world and get gently curious with themselves.
What’s going on here? What do I need? Lord, what are you saying?
Emotionally courageous people are patient with themselves and tune into the stuff that’s “cranking” on their hearts. With practice, this important and challenging work helps us to more resilient and oftentimes avoid the “pop” all together.
To lead is to be emotionally courageous.
Emotionally courageous leaders take great care of their hearts which allows them to take that same care of those they serve. When courageous leaders care well for themselves and others they can move forward powerfully in their work. The work that they pour their very hearts into.
It’s through the challenge and discomfort that our hearts get restored. Restored to peace, joy, and hope. And it’s from this place, that our hearts are free to be all of who we are and step into all that God has for us.