Learning to Express Man-Worthy Emotions

23 Jul

We all know that…

Men don’t have emotions.

Men don’t speak with emotions.

Men don’t understand emotions.

Men are unable to change these facts.

However, all of these assumptions and jokes that are made about men are wrong.  While maybe humorous on the surface, these assumptions can be destructive to healthy relationships.

Men and women are both created with emotions.  While these emotions might be expressed in different ways, and to various degrees, they are essential to what makes us human.  Just like other gifts and abilities given to us by God, we are called to be good stewards of our emotions.  As humans we are called to learn how to understand, express, and control our emotions for the purpose of furthering God’s Kingdom.

Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. Some researchers suggest that emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened, while other claim it is an inborn characteristic (Source).  If you are interested, you can also take a test that will score your EI.

So my fellow men, here are some steps to working towards expressing our emotions.

1.  Acknowledge your emotions.

Please keep reading.  As men, we need to understand that being tough does not require the absence of all emotions.  Toughness is the ability to work through our emotions, and use them to propel us forward.  To deny our emotions is to deny the depth of relationships that God created for us to enjoy.

Once you acknowledge emotions as a normal part of our humanity, then you can begin to work toward using them more effectively.

In Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning says that God’s child spontaneously expresses emotions while the Pharisee carefully represses them.  He says, “To ignore, repress, or dismiss our feelings is to fail to listen to the stirrings of the Spirit within our emotional life.”  Our emotions are a means by which we can have clear and intimate communication with God and one another.

 2.  Identify your emotions.

Denken / Thinking from Flickr via Wylio

© 2012 Sebastiaan ter Burg, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

The first step to communicating how you feel is being able to identify the emotions.  This is not as simplistic as it first seems.  As humans we can experience a mix of emotions, or be hit by various waves.  Fear may be mixed with anger.  Joy might be overcome by worry.

As a child, we should be taught how to express and identify our emotions.  In some families where feelings are stuffed, or not expressed, it may require you to go back and learn to release and identify how you feel.

Sometimes men struggle so much identifying feelings, that I will hand them a picture of faces displaying various emotions.  While this may seem childish, it is extremely helpful for those who are not used to declaring their faith.

If you are having trouble identifying your emotions and their source, it may due to stress.  High levels of stress can overwhelm the mind and body, getting in the way of your ability to accurately “read” a situation, hear what someone else is saying, be aware of your own feelings and needs, and communicate clearly. (Source)  Relieving stress is crucial to being able to accurately understand and identify your emotions.

3.   Practice sharing emotions.

Don’t stop now, you are almost done.  I know that sharing emotions has “awkward” written all over it, but many natural human experiences are “awkward” (like our entire junior high years?).  Expressing your emotions can be intimidating and scary, especially for those who were mocked or whose emotions were overlooked.  Start with someone that you love and can trust.

During premarital counseling, I ask couples to practice asking their spouse for something, and then use emotions to describe how they would feel if they got their request.  I am shocked by how usually one partner (not always the men) is unable to express their emotions.  Often they will use words like, “It would be better.”  “Our time would be more efficient.”  “It would be more effective.”  The problem with these responses is that productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness are not emotions.  For those who are not used to speaking in emotions, it may require an outsider to help you make changes to your vocabulary.

If you are struggling with words, then maybe you can begin by writing.  You don’t need to write a diary (too much like a 12 year old girl), or a journal (too much like school).  Just simply take a piece of paper and finish some of these sentences:

Right now, I feel…

Today this happened, causing me to feel…

If I got ___________ from my wife, then I would feel…

I want _____________ to happen in our family, and if it does, I will feel…

Go back over your sentence and look for words that express emotions (the words effective, better, or productive do not count.  When done, you can throw it away (or burn it) to destroy all evidence.

 

Congratulations!  You made it to the end.  If you are feeling like this is too much work, psycho-babble, or simply isn’t worth it – think again.

Our wives will light up, because they will feel connected.

Our children will see beyond our role as the disciplinarian or provider, because they will feel loved.

Our God will rejoice that we are connecting with how He created us, and using our whole being to further the Kingdom.

 

Dr. G. David Boyd is the Founder and Managing Director of EA Resources.  He writes from his office at McDonalds each morning as he sips sweet tea.

2 Responses to “Learning to Express Man-Worthy Emotions”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. EA Resources | From Boy to Man – Part Two – A Response to Albert Mohler - October 22, 2014

    […] men and women can develop their Emotional Intelligence.  A strong sense of identity can equip you to understand and respect others without feeling […]

  2. From Boy to Man – Part Two – A Response to Albert Mohler | More Than A Beard - October 23, 2014

    […] men and women can develop their Emotional Intelligence.  A strong sense of identity can equip you to understand and respect others without feeling […]

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