How Can You Control Your Emotions?
MANY today crave emotional stimulation. They seek excitement through fast driving, dangerous sports, illicit sex, and stimulating drugs. Indeed, the world of commerce and entertainment stresses the need for emotional experiences. Thus, many have a low tolerance for peace and quiet, feeling they deserve to get more emotional exhilaration out of life.
Of course, all of us have emotions. For example, when we smile, laugh, or cry, we indicate our emotional state at the moment. But did you know that emotions can even affect your body, such as by causing changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and sweating? They may also cause physical discomfort, such as headaches, upset stomach, and back problems. Hence, people generally seek the pleasant emotions and avoid the unpleasant. Some people try to evade the unpleasant ones by daydreaming, overeating, and overdrinking. On the other hand, the proper emotional condition promotes well-being. Proverbs 14:30 says: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism.”
Interestingly, God’s Word mentions all sorts of human feelings, such as love, hate, joy, grief, courage, and fear. You may recall that once “Jesus gave way to tears,” showing his emotions upon the death of a friend. (John 11:35) Joseph struggled to hold back tears “because his inward emotions were excited toward his brother,” whom he had not seen for years.—Genesis 43:30.
Why Control Your Emotions?
Since we are living in “times of stress” and we are imperfect, more unpleasant feelings creep into our lives than pleasant ones. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, Revised Standard) As the Bible says, “mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7) So if we do not try to control undesirable emotions, we can harm our relations with our family, schoolmates, fellow workers, and Christian associates.
Naturally, all of us are affected emotionally by what the Bible terms “time and unforeseen occurrence.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) For example, a married couple, who were in the full-time ministry, returned to their apartment to find that they had been robbed of most of their possessions. This upset them, even to the point of their feeling ill. It took them some days to regain control of their emotions. Once they recuperated, they continued in their work of ‘comforting the mourning ones.’—Isaiah 61:2.
Or you may know persons who allow themselves to become aroused emotionally by watching soap operas. They so identify with the characters that they often cry over this mere fiction. Consider, too, the case of a single woman living by herself. One night she started to watch a horror film. Although “scared to death,” she could not stop watching. Afterward she had trouble getting to sleep. When she finally dropped into a fitful sleep, you can imagine what she dreamed about: vampires and monsters. The point is: We are affected emotionally by what happens around us. Certainly, then, we ought to be selective, avoiding that which is harmful or needlessly upsets our emotional balance.
Stressing Desirable Emotions
On the other hand, God’s Word recommends that we “be moderate in habits,” using ‘our power of reason.’ (Titus 2:2; Romans 12:1) That does not mean that we should restrain ourselves to the point of being apathetic about life. Appropriately controlled emotions add spice to life. The Bible says, for instance: “There is nothing better than that the man should rejoice in his works.”—Ecclesiastes 3:22.
Therefore, to make life truly enjoyable, we can learn to cultivate the positive emotions. This, rather than negative thinking, can help us to be “eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:14, New International Version) Strong, healthy sentiments strengthen determination and perseverance so as to achieve what is worthwhile. Of course, Christians know they are not accomplishing things in God’s service because of positive thinking in itself. Rather, they recognize the need to rely fully on Jehovah’s spirit so as to face the future. (Luke 11:13; Proverbs 19:21) How, then, can we control our emotions, magnifying the beneficial ones?
“Quit Being in Anxious Suspense”
Because of their harmful effects, emotions such as wrath, jealousy, animosity, and fear need to be controlled. To illustrate how we can do this, consider just one emotion: anxiety.
God’s active force strengthened his willing and faithful servants in the past, as it does today. Led by the holy spirit, Jesus preserved a positive outlook by taking a keen interest in spiritual matters. He encouraged his followers to “quit being in anxious suspense.” (Luke 12:29) He was never uncertain about his Father’s loving care. (John 15:9, 10) His zeal and enthusiasm were not hindered by boredom and frustration. Likewise, too, if you want to control excessive anxiety, occupy your mind with ‘praiseworthy things.’ (Philippians 4:8) Yes, confidence in Jehovah can dispel negative thoughts.
For example, a handicapped young girl in São Paulo, Brazil, worried about her lack of skills and her future. She cared for the minor children in the house while her parents both worked. Feeling of little use, she wrote: “I am afraid I will end up losing my head, doing something foolish. I even thought of suicide. I feel I never will be able to marry.” After receiving a letter that urged her to increase her study of the Bible, she wrote: “I began to feel that at last someone was interested in analyzing my problems. You showed me how vital it is to live in Jehovah’s new system.” Thus, instead of just worrying, why not set definite goals, especially spiritual ones, such as to do more in spreading the good news of the Kingdom or to spend more time studying God’s Word?
True, some temporary relief may come from relaxing, going for a walk, changing routine or environment, or listening to soothing music. We, nevertheless, may be inclined to negative thinking and anxiety, depending on the things we have been taught or have experienced. For this reason, intellectual ability and willpower are not sufficient to produce peace of mind or bring one into God’s favor. We must learn to ‘throw all our anxiety upon Jehovah.’ We can do this ‘because he cares for us.’—1 Peter 5:7.
God’s Personal Interest in You
The Creator did not intend everybody to be alike and to react in the same way. In the Bible, he provided guiding principles that are suitable and sufficient for all. He also gave us vivid examples of his showing personal interest in his servants’ well-being. “Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart . . . Many are the calamities of the righteous one, but out of them all Jehovah delivers him.” (Psalm 34:18, 19) In fact, Jehovah is aware of our inmost emotions, even our troubles and tears. Psalm 56:8 expresses it this way: “Do put my tears in your skin bottle. Are they not in your book?” Hence, when we are in real need, even “afflicted and poor,” Jehovah can be our “assistance and the Provider of escape.” (Psalm 40:17) But just what is required of you to receive this help?
Appreciation of God’s excellent qualities, his “tender mercies,” helps us to avoid concentrating unduly on ourselves. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4) We cannot self-centeredly follow our emotions blindly because the human heart can be “treacherous,” leading to imprudent actions, even immoral relations. (Jeremiah 17:9) For instance, a married woman in Latin America became attracted to a man next door. Moved by her emotions, she rationalized her desire to “help” him. Fortunately, she sought spiritual counsel from mature Christians. With heightened appreciation of God’s qualities, she ended the relationship. Now she happily says: “My marriage was saved.” Certainly, all of us do well to cultivate willingness to be taught by Jehovah and to draw close to him.—Psalm 19:7-11.
Strong faith, that is, assured anticipation and confident hope, contributes to a positive attitude, whereas the unknown stimulates anxiety and fear. (Hebrews 11:6) Really, negative thinking or doubts can make us fail where we could have succeeded. Lack of faith indicates the need to develop more confidence in God’s ability to act. (1 John 5:10) How vital, then, to rely on God, offering frequent prayers for help to control our emotions!—James 1:5.
Self-control and reasonableness, too, are qualities we need to cultivate so as to promote pleasant relations with others. “A man of discernment is cool of spirit,” controlling his emotions. (Proverbs 17:27) Besides this, the apostle Paul wrote: “Let your reasonableness become known to all men,” thus contributing to an orderly and peaceful life.—Philippians 4:5.
Love for others promotes the most delightful sentiments, being willing to encourage others and to make them feel at ease. “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead.” “Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs.”—Romans 12:10; 1 Corinthians 13:4, 5, Today’s English Version.
If you continue to cultivate these qualities, you can be certain of Jehovah’s help. As Paul wrote: “The peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:7.
What Do You Want to Do?
Though each of us may recognize his own need to control certain emotions better, we can be confident that progress and greater happiness are within our grasp. To that end, we ought to take great care that we do not daydream nor give in to uncontrolled emotions such as needless worrying. Rather, let us exert ourselves to cultivate positive, healthy emotions in order to be at peace with ourselves, our associates, and God.
Yes, it is worthwhile to be determined to do that, looking forward to the day when Jehovah ‘will satisfy the desire of every living thing.’ (Psalm 145:16) Hence, work steadily toward enjoying life in God’s peaceful new system of things. Doing so will even contribute to your present happiness, certainly a most desirable emotion.