As a young man, I faced a lot of challenges learning to integrate my heart with my head.  In fact, it was probably one of the most difficult aspects of growing up and maturing.  I simply had really difficult time clearly expressing what I was feeling.   And in my later years I became more and more aware that many men (like me) have trouble honestly and authentically expressing what’s going on in their hearts.  They do not have the verbal skills, nor the appropriate awareness of what is going on inside.  My sense is that this is due to the lack of modeling from our fathers and other men as we were growing up.  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 the importance of befriending our 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 made 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 emotional unrest and chaos, with a focus now on you and not on Jesus at the center.  Spiritual maturity allows us to befriend these emotions, being honest about how they occur and coming back to Jesus at the center to find healing.

Nouwen’s advice for 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 reading this, the thought of befriending your emotions may seem like 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 you through and through and wants to help you in your emotional turmoil.

When befriending our emotions is is vital that we not get discouraged or flee to the comfortable confines of our rational “control  tower.”  Ask the Lord for grace to “befriend” your emotions.  That means that you can allow them to pass  without reacting.  It is through our true self in Christ that we can observe what is going on and then make 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 befriending your emotions.  By all means don’t let your emotions become “strangers.”   Remember what 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)