Someone I know and respect once suggested to me that every couple months I take a minute and take an emotional inventory. The idea is that by regularly looking at how I feel and how I’m doing on an emotional level I can get a better idea of where I am in my life and what if anything needs to be addressed and changed. Now I spent a lot of time growing up studiously ignoring how I felt. It didn’t matter what I felt because there was work to be done. I needed to get better grades, I needed to do better on my sports team, I needed to impress a girl who was so far out of my league she didn’t even know I existed.
And I didn’t want to feel.
Something I still struggle with on occasion is a weird kind of determination to not care and not feel and just keep on DOING. So this guy I know said “stop it.”
Just like that. “Stop it.” And then told me that if I ever want to grow up and be the man that God has designed me to be I needed to get over this part of my life. My emotions are supposed to tell me when something isn’t right with the way I’m living. Discontent and frustration are signs that things need to change, joy and peace indicates that I need to appreciate and enjoy whatever it is because it’s a good thing and I need to make sure to hold onto it even if it doesn’t seem to fit.
So every couple of months I draw a line down a center of a page. On the left hand side I write down the feelings I can recall experiencing lately that are positive. Things like joy, love, peace, excitement, and so on. On the right hand side I figure out where I’ve been averaging on the negative side. Things like sadness, stress, anger, and on and on.
Turns out I’ve been in a state of moderate depression for the past couple of months and have managed to ignore it in favor of getting stuff done.
Now I’m not telling you this so I can get a sympathy vote or some really awesome compliments. I’m not having a pity party or trying to play the victim. What I want to do with this little story is demonstrate a very simple tool with multiple applications. I firmly believe that God can speaks to me through my emotions and that a persistent emotional state can be reflective of something out of balance or misaligned in my spirit. It can indicate that something else in my life is not in alignment with God and my own spirit, my emotions are in turmoil because of it. But having recognized that it’s there, I can pray through it. I can get others to pray with me, and I can start living instead of just doing.
I invite you to do the same today. Stop for a moment, draw a line down the center of a piece of paper, and on the left, write all the good things you feel on an average day and on the right all the negative things you feel on an average day. What does it tell you about your current circumstances?