Life, Hope & Truth

Taming Our Emotions

Emotions can be strong, overpowering forces in our lives that seem to bend us to their will. How can we tame our emotions?

Crying baby to illustrate taming our emotions.
Even when we try to rationally handle and control our feelings, they can many times get the best of us. How can we tame something that is so inherently human as our emotions?

How many times have we heard comments like these?

  • “You’re too emotional.”
  • “Control yourself.”
  • “Get a hold of yourself.”
  • “Calm down.”

We can all experience random feelings from day to day. But for some of us, emotions can turn into revolving cycles of truly “out of control” circumstances. It’s as if our emotions take over and don’t give up their power easily.

Slaves to emotion

Those of us struggling with our emotions in this way do not see ourselves as being “too emotional,” but rather that we can’t seem to control what is happening to us. Romans 6:16 states, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”

Experiencing emotions is certainly not sin in itself, but what about when emotions overpower our thinking and our minds, becoming “louder” than God’s truth? For example, when we cannot control the emotion of anxiety, we may have a very difficult time trusting in God’s perfect will and plan. Or when we cannot control the emotions of despair and hopelessness, it is very hard to be a positive light bringing God’s good news to the world.

In fact, when we are slaves to negative emotions, we put our use of all the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in serious jeopardy.

  • How can we show love and goodness if we are slaves to jealousy?
  • How can we show joy and gentleness if we are slaves to inferiority and self-criticism?
  • How can we show peace and kindness if we are slaves to anger?
  • How can we show longsuffering if we are slaves to frustration?
  • How can we show faithfulness if we are slaves to anxiety and worry?
  • And how can we show self-control if we cannot control the emotions that hinder the other fruits of the Spirit?

Take back control

To win back control of our emotions, we have to start thinking about why the feelings come in the first place. Sometimes feelings seem to just explode into our minds, and then we begin to dwell on them and feed them.

However, though many times it doesn’t seem like it, we always have thoughts that precede our emotions. These thoughts are what spark the feelings, and they are the first point of our attack.

We should try to pinpoint, and write down and keep track of, the specific thoughts that led to our emotion. Then we should ask ourselves these questions:

  1. Were these thoughts rational and based on fact from the Bible (from God)? Or were they irrational and based on lies from society (from Satan)? Do they come from selfishness? Example: We may think, “I’m on my own.” But God says in Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
  2. Do these thoughts conform with the fruits of the Holy Spirit mentioned above?
  3. Are these thoughts fair to others and myself?
  4. How long am I going to let my unhealthy thoughts continue to lead to negative emotion?

Controlling our thoughts

We can become so used to immediate, negative emotion that we hardly even notice the thought process that leads to it. In order to truly take back control of our emotions, we have to take back control of the thought patterns that led us there.

Smiley face and frowny face to illustrate taming our emotions.
Although there is some validity in attempting to change our environment and life circumstances, many things that come at us in life are not things we choose to happen. There are some things we can control, and we should diligently do what we are able to do to decrease the environmental stimuli that may lead to erroneous thought patterns. However, the rest of our experiences are not under our control, and so it is important to learn the godly way to respond (not react) in our thinking.

Out with the bad, in with the good

Wrong thoughts that lead to overwhelming emotions must not just be removed; they have to be replaced.

Notice Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

When we effectively replace wrong thinking with God’s thinking, it is amazing the effect it can have on our emotional states.

To truly tame our emotions, we must decide to break free from their domination, compare our cognition with God’s perspective, and, through God’s Holy Spirit working in us, replace our thinking accordingly. Commit to stopping the vicious cycle now and regain control over your emotions!

Related reading: See the “Relationships” section of the website.

About the Author

Eddie Foster

Eddie Foster

Eddie Foster was born in Ohio, and after living in several parts of the northeastern United States, he once again lives in the Buckeye State, most likely for good this time. He lives in the Dayton area with his wife, Shannon, and two daughters, Isabella and Marley. They attend the Cincinnati/Dayton congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.

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