As a young man one of the most difficult aspects of maturing was learning to integrate my heart with my head. I had a very difficult time putting into clear expression what I was feeling. Now in these later years I have come to the awareness that many men like myself have not been able to give honest, authentic expression to what is going on in their hearts. They do not have the language, nor the appropriate awareness of what is going on in thier hearts. My sense is that this is due to the lack of modeling from our fathers and other men in our growing up years. Learning to befriend your emotional life, while giving clear and healthy expression to what the emotions are telling us is not easy. But it is critical for a wildman to acknowledge to importance of befriending the emotions. We do not live by emotions, but we befriend our emotions because they tell us a great deal about our inner life, the life that is beyond the reach of our minds
Henri Nouwen makes this important observation’ “You have to befriend them (your emotions) so that you do not become their victim.” If you allow yourself to take a daily inventory of your emotions, you will soon become aware of how much you are victimized by your emotions in your behavior and attitudes.. One away to visualize this is to remember that you are at home with Jesus at the center. This is a place of peace and rest. Then think of the many times your emotions react to people and circumstances and pull you away from the center. What happens? You live in a sea of unrest and chaos emotionally, with a focus now on you and not with Jesus at the center. Spiritual maturity allows us to befriend these emotions, being honest about how they occur and coming back to the center with Jesus to find healing.
Nouwen’s advice for a group of wildmen learning to befriend their emotions is this – “The way to ‘victory’ is not in trying to overcome your dispiriting emotions directly but in building a deeper sense of safety and at-homeness and a more incarnate knowledge that your are deeply loved. Then, little by little, you will stop giving so much power to strangers.” For some men who are reading this post, the thought of befriending their emotions is similar to falling into an emotional abyss. But remember this is not true. For at the center or the bottom of the abyss is Jesus holding you in love. He knows and wants to help you in your emotional turmoil.
In befriending your emotions is is vital that you don’t get discouraged or flee to the comfortable confines of your rational “control tower.” Ask for grace to “befriend” your emotions. That means that you can allow them to pass without reacting. It is as through your true self in Christ you can observe what is going on and then making the proper response. This happens when we create “inner space” while being at home at the center. Men I can not stress enough how important it is to trust the reality of Jesus, being at home at the center. You don’t have to be afraid or discouraged in your journey of befriend your emotions and by all means don’t let your emotions become “strangers.” Remember Jesus said, “I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left – feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” (John 14:26-7 – The Message)