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Jul 26, 2009

Feelings Returning

One of the popular church teachings that I regret having any part of is the teaching that our girlfeelings do not matter. You've probably heard it said by more than one preacher in your life. I was even guilty of preaching it a time or two in my day. It was always for the purpose of getting people to believe that God lived inside of them and was doing a work whether they "felt" something or not. I still stand by that statement, however I think that in our efforts to encourage people to believe in the promises of God despite their feelings, we have thrown the baby out with the bath water.

I think for many preachers, feelings have become the enemy. Because we had to answer so many people who were worried because they didn't feel anything, I think we began todespise the entire concept of human feelings. Many of us looked "feelings" up in the Bible and discovered that there is very little said about them. We naturally (and excitedly) concluded that God didn't care about feelings. We would say things like, "It doesn't matter how you feel, God has promised it and He never lies," or "God never asked how we felt about something because feelings are deceptive; they come and go."

I think I've heard Christians give the disclaimer, "I know it's not about feelings" about ten thousand times in the last few years. It seems that we believe our feelings have no place in the kingdom realm whatsoever. I think that we Christians have bought into this concept so much that we even crucify ourselves for having feelings at all. Because our religion has outlawed 90% of human emotion altogether, it's not surprising that so many of us have to be put on some sort of medication after a lifetime of feeling abandonment.

I was on a psychology website awhile ago, and I came across a list of human emotions. It
included every emotion imaginable - happy, sad, embarrassed, fearful, angry, nervous, faceapprehensive and so on. Out of the approximately sixty to seventy emotions listed, I could count about four that Christians are allowed to have. This absolutely floored me, and I found it extremely telling. Suddenly, everything came into focus and I gained a new understanding of why so many of us are so torn inside. It also explains why so many pastors and evangelists view the world from a cold-hearted, black and white perspective with little or no regard for the feelings of those listening. Christians come across as heartless to the world around them.

Scared teen-aged girls enter an abortion clinic hoping to find some way out of their mistake, and Christians heckle and berate them from the parking lot, calling them "murderers" and "baby killers" for no other reason then they found a verse in the Bible that forbids abortion. How this poor girl feels is the last thing on their mind. What's going on inside of her terrified heart is irrelevant to someone who'sabortionblindly following the law.

In all my years, I don't think I've seen anything quite as loathsome as a Christian who has mastered today's "feeling-less faith." There is something so sickening about someone who rattles off Bible verses in an, "I believe it because the Bible says it" kind of way. We exalt people like this in the church because they seem to have reached a spiritual headiness that we all aspire to. Every time we see them, they present happiness and joy on their faces mixed with an unwavering determination to follow the Bible at any cost. They do not believe the Bible because they've actually experienced the truth and tasted its life. They believe it out of principal. To accomplish that level of belief; feelings must be completely snuffed out. What you think, must be intentionally ignored and routinely shot down.

The odd thing about this modern day Christian mind-set is that the same churches who encourage emotional paralysis, also rely on pure emotionalism to define the presence of God. I believe this is why so many Christians are so confused. In one breath we are told we can't trust our feelings and seconds later we're sitting through an emotional roller coaster ride of a sermon that gauges its "anointing level" by how emotional you get towards the end. Everything from the "‘worship service" to the sermon is carefully designed to get to that part of you that you were told not to trust. Today's church experience is a feeling extravaganza, with mood lighting, back ground music, and quivering voices all working together to provide you with the most emotional hour and a half of your week.

I would like to put forth the idea that the time in your life when your feelings can be trusted the least, is when you're sitting through one of these church services that are specifically designed to manipulate your emotions. In the daily course of life however, your feelings about things are surprisingly accurate. They can and should be trusted way more than you've been taught to believe. I do believe that we shouldn't base everything on our feelings, but that doesn't mean our feelings are always deceptive. The great thing is that you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you, and the truth is; you know when to trust your feelings and when not to. Think about it. You really do!

I think many people living in the wild are just now getting back in touch with their feelings for the first time in years. Some of us aren't even sure how we feel at any given time, because we've been taught to ignore that part of ourselves for so long. I encourage you to reconnect with that part of you and learn to take control over it again. Many of us living in the wild are recovering victims of repeated emotional rape by our particular church. We are afraid to trust our feelings because our feelings were used as a tool to manipulate us for so long.

I think we should embrace and guard our feelings. They matter.


Darin Hufford

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  1. Gravatar

    Very good stuff. The most non-human and "Bible verse throwing" people are often presented as the most spiritual. And those who are still just a little bit human feel guilty for not being good enough. Those who don't kill everything human in themselves - music they like, clothes they like, hobbys they like, art they like are considered not spiritual enough, the term being often used is "worldly". Have you seeen the movie Equilibrium where people were forbidden to feel in order to create a "perfect" society? I guess a huge part of Christianity has been infected with the Equibilrium syndrome. If that's the Kingdom we're fighting for I'd rather be an outcast. If holiness means ignoring the physical world then Jesus was a big sinner. Why is it so that all Christianity is so infected with fear?

  2. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    I think it has to be infected with fear because it's become a business that needs returning customers.

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    David Backus

    I think this feeling-less philosophy has caused me so much woe in life. I made a lot of decisions based on the notion that my feelings didn't matter, decisions that got me hurt. I was taught to be numb and went through life with emotional leprosy, unable to feel and react to real danger. Things changed for me when one year Father God told me that he was giving me my feelings and I was allowed to have them. Thank you SO much for posting this! It is about time Christianity addresses this!

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    Stephney Webb

    Thanks for this great article is true for me too that i have needed to get in touch with my feelings after learning for the last 20 odd years to suppress not only my feelings but my own thoughts too.Sadly this type of thing makes for a suppressed personality as is fear is controling...I am so pleased to be free at last. Like David Backus said about being taught to be numb..i know i can relate to this too...that is why it can be so painful (but healing) when life returns to those numb parts of ourselves...but thats what Jesus came to give us LIFE....Life instead of religion...Life instead of rules...yay for LIFE! yay for Jesus..the Way, Truth and Life!

  5. Gravatar

    A fatherless nation is so susceptible to this type of manipulation and suppression, and not just at 'church.'

  6. Gravatar

    I feel I like this. Although approximately every 28 days I try my darnedest to ignore my feelings.

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    Ann O.

    Wanna know something interesting? The definition of Depression is anger turned inward....

    I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this ;)

  8. Gravatar

    If your insides do not match your outsides you are an impostor and a liar.Liars do not enter the kingdom.Sounds mean doesn't it.But is it really? It is just saying you are not honest enough to need it anyway.If you say "all is well" or "I have no need of you" than how is that working for you?I had a nervous breakdown from this kind of thinking.After I left the Church with this kind of teaching,none of the things I "stuffed" were gone,just hidden under the impostor and the liar.Where would we be if Jesus had "stuffed" his feelings and became "comfortably numb." Becoming as a little child who needs the care and Love of the Father is the only thing that works for me now.Children let it all hang out and Jesus "picked" up a child to make a point. Content in whatever state I find myself.

  9. Gravatar

    I love what you said about emotional services vs. no emotions. I thought church didn't count if I didn't cry. But after that, the church told me that my emotions were WRONG. I finally found the courage to decide to reject any teaching that told me to repress an emotion. I've also rejected those who've dismissed my great instincts because I couldn't explain my intuitions in a "logical" manner. Thanks to a great counselor I recovered my instincts last year. I've also learned that this is the way God most frequently speaks to me. I'm not always right, but I'm much happier and have much more peace than when I tried to be "logical" with a black & white, unemotional ex-husband, ex-boss, and/or fellow Christian.

  10. Gravatar

    Hey Darin,

    I just was glancing at this, but I have to say that I'm so glad I never bought into that lie that our emotions are wrong. Man was created in God's image... and I don't think that just means the way He looks. I think it goes to the core of Him. We don't have these emotions for nothing, they had to come from somewhere and I choose to believe that our God is not a stoic being.

    Thanks for the post!

  11. Gravatar

    Good post, Darin! I agree that we are taught to distrust emotions as bad while at the same time we are taught to pursue emotional experience. We judge a service on how it makes us FEEL rather than the truth of it. God gave us emotions and passion, and they aren't bad...UNLESS they rule us. I think our relationship with God is like a marriage. A passionate, emotionless marriage is cold and dysfunctional--but so would seeking to always have an emotional "high." We have to commit to the RELATIONSHIP, not the emotion. We must commit to the one we love, through times of closeness AND distance, good times AND difficult times.

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    Jo Ellen

    The thing about feelings is that, while true, they are not The Truth. They are little messengers...Anger says "Someone's crossed a boundary", Fear says, "There may be danger here."
    Jesus said, "You will know the the truth and the truth will set you free."
    True freedom, in the realm of emotions, is the ability to say, "God, I'm angry at this situation and angry at you for letting it happen and I feel like 'going to the garden to eat some worms' but I believe your love will somehow deliver me from this as well and so I choose to live in this difficult moment with an expectation of and confidence in your amazing grace...but I'm really, really, really pissed off."
    The problem, as you stated Darin, is that we haven't been taught how to properly 'possess and express' emotions.

  13. Gravatar

    A big YES!! to this, Darin. I believe that our emotions are a gift from God to enable us to fully respond to life, whether the circumstances are positive or negative. They are indicators that give messages of what's going on inside us, and not to be ignored or denied. Only when we're emotionally honest can we truly live abundantly, be healed of pain, receive love, and love others from the heart. Great article, thanks.

  14. Gravatar

    As with everything, there needs to be a balance. At one point, everyone was living by his/her feelings. Our "if it feels good, do it" mantra left many broken and disillusioned. Christians went to the other extreme and tried to become unfeeling robots. I believe we are really talking about heart issues. The bible says to guard our hearts at all times. Emotions come from the heart, and the redeemed heart should feel. We can "know" things in our hearts. A carnal or baby Christian must still beware of letting his/her emotions rule. They may be new creations in Christ but not "feel" like it. Well, rain on the feelings, you are brand new. So, again, there must be a balance. Jesus certainly had emotions, the number one being compassion, which moved Him into action. Praise God.

  15. Gravatar

    Just out of curiosity: what were the four allowable emotions???? :)

  16. Gravatar
    Jim Robbins

    Hey Darin -- I'm reading a book on this very topic by Matthew Elliot called, "Feel - the power of listening to your heart." He challenges our deeply-held assumptions about emotions and their typical vilification in Christian culture.

  17. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    I'd rather read your book:)

  18. Gravatar

    I have often commented to my husband that it seemed that once I became Born Again my faith has decreased. With the exception of the the very first years,"how to become a good Christian" took over. Now some 25+ years of nagging doubts about the IC and "Gee,I don't think this is what Christ meant about___(fill in)-I am now becoming free. The past 5yrs of attending services with no feeling at all except anger and frustration and not hearing God's voice led me to say "ENOUGH". I admitted to God I wasn't"strong enough,"patient" enough,or"Christian" enough to wait for the changes to occur at my church. I am sure I am a failure or surely a backslider to some. BUT once that decision was made it was like the clouds parted and I heard God again. Now the TRUE Journey begins. Thank you for this site.

  19. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Thank YOU Francine for your testimony. You are why I put this site together. I've been in your world and I found what you found. I'm so happy for you.

  20. Gravatar
    Lyn Myers

    I am so relieved that someone is being honest at last Darin!I had been cracking up on the inside for so long, I was so angry, and nobody would let me be those things. I hid them and had a nervous breakdown and it was the best thing that happened to me! God has been restoring me for the last 15 years. I made so many bad decisions during my IC years! My family fell apart because the anger exploded and I went into the 'world'and just acted out my anger! My children to this day are suffering from that experience, but God is GOOD and He is restoring me and my children in His way, in His time and I am learning how to feel my real feelings and let Him be Him AS me!

  21. Gravatar

    Thank you for that. From long ago I have been hit over the head with the "rejoice in the Lord" thing. I was not allowed to feel my intense grief, but was to gain victory over it by rejoicing, otherwise I was a bad testimony. Even recently, in a verse by verse exposition of Romans 12, the preacher spent ages on "rejoice with those who rejoice" expanding it to a more general theme of rejoicing, and I held my breath waiting for the next bit "mourn with those who mourn" and he COMPLETELY left it out! I know joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit but it is not something you come to by gritting your teeth, suppressing your real feelings and obeying a command, is it?

  22. Gravatar

    OOPS. Just listened to the The Joy of the Lord sermon. I gotta think about this. I guess I have to first get rid of a bias resulting from a parent who used humour to ridicule and put down in very nasty ways "sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but mighty effective" she used to say. Then the teaching that I have to rejoice ABOUT everything. I won't rejoice about evil. And I won't stick a false smile on my face just for the worship service to impress anyone. But joy as relaxing, not being so serious about everything, just letting ourselves enjoy life secure in His love; that makes sense and is so simple. Seasons of grief still come though, don't they?

  23. Gravatar

    I always found it crazy to think back to a sermon in which the pastor chastised those of us who were enduring some very real hardships by telling us that we need to quit walking around with that dour look on our faces and telling others that things are not ok. When someone asks us how we are, put a big smile on our faces and say we're doing great. In other words, lie about it.

  24. Gravatar

    Love this. I was taught the very same things for many years. Now, it has become relatively simple..if feelings are not important then why did God create us to have them?

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