We live in a day and age where it seems everyone takes offense. We allow our attitude and behaviour to be dictated by how others feel, act, and treat us. But what we really need to do is stop blaming others for how we react and respond and take ownership of our own emotions.
I recently listened to a podcast that was discussing how a perfectionist internalizes other people’s responses (often in a negative way), in regards to everything they do. A perfectionist is always striving to please and succeed. I can attest to this because I am a perfectionist. I feed off what other people think of me and the emotions or body language they project to me, even though it may not be an accurate representation of what that person is actually thinking or feeling.
I have had to address this struggle in my life because it was affecting my relationships with those around me, and oftentimes with those closest to me, like my husband, my children and my extended family since these are the people I want to please the most. What was happening is that I was pouring all of myself into everything I was doing but when I was not living up to the expectations or more accurately not living up to my expectations, then I felt like a failure. I would allow my perception of their feelings and responses to dictate my feelings and responses. Often times, I would give the cold shoulder, retaliate with insult, or disconnect from the relationship. My heart was never in the right place.
We live in a broken world with imperfect people, thus our relationships will never be perfect. People will never live up to our expectations, people will let us down, people will say and do things that crush our spirits. Often times, we want to disassociate or harden our hearts when these situations occur, but this is not what the Lord desires for us. Jesus addresses this issue of the heart in Matthew 5: 21-22, when He says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
I know whenever I read this passage, it makes me stop and reflect on the areas of my heart that are hardened and harboring anger and bitterness to those around me. It’s easy for us to say that our anger is justified, but in all honesty the only righteous anger is towards those who oppress the poor, weak and outcasts of society. I know that this is not the case in my situation. Often, my anger and bitterness is triggered when I feel attacked in my most vulnerable area- parenting.
I expected to go into this parenting thing with ease. I was a successful and qualified teacher. I rarely had a problem with behavior management in the years I taught in a classroom. I assumed my children would be compliant and obedient. I thought I would have everything under control and running in perfect order, but that is not the case with parenting. Parenting is God’s tool to break down the sin in our lives. It is anything but a walk in the park. It is meant to bring us to our knees, admit our weakness and repent of our sins. It takes all the focus off of ourselves and directs our eyes back to God who is sovereign, sufficient and Savior.
It is in my moments of complete failure as a parent that I internalize disappointment and critique from those around me. It is when my day feels like a disaster- house a mess, tantrums, tardiness, exhaustion and defeat- that I start to take ownership of other people’s emotions and behaviours. I internalize what I believe the person is thinking, saying, meaning, projecting, and the list can go on, when in actuality, I have no right to take ownership of their emotions. The only person whose emotions I can own are mine. I can decide whether I am going to take offense or whether I am going to choose joy.
There are times, when my husband comes home from a long day at work- his job is incredible stressful, beyond anything I can imagine- or sometimes he is waking up in the middle of the day after completing 3 night shifts in a row, and his attitude and responses are not what I’m expecting or requiring from him. In the past, I used to take offense to his tone or his quick responses. I would take offence, shut down and give the cold shoulder, but what the Spirit convicted me on is that I am not at war with my husband. Ephesians 6:12, tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” These feelings I felt were a spiritual attack from the forces of evil. I began to realize that I needed to take ownership of my emotions. Therefore, instead of taking offense, I can choose to model joy and extend grace.
In other situations, I realized that the enemy had me seeking for affirmation and validation in the wrong places. I sought after it from those closest to me in my life. The enemy sees this area of weakness and looks to tear down and create division within our God ordained relationships. He turned my focus away from God as sovereign, sufficient and Savior, and directed my focus to the things of this world. Thankfully, the Spirit reminded me of God’s Word which speaks these four truths:
- The things of this world will perish (1 Corinthians 7:21)
- We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people. (Romans 3:23)
- We are at war with darkness (Ephesians 6:12)
- Nothing is greater than God (Psalm 113:4-6).
I reminded myself of these truths over and over again and I continue to do this whenever I feel the need to seek affirmation and validation from those around me rather than God. For when we put that expectation onto people, we are only going to be let down. But when we turn to God’s word and realize that we are His children in whom He loves, then it completely changes how we perceive things in whatever situation we find ourself.
The second thing I do is turn to prayer. In 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5, it says, “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasons and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” What this is instructing us to do is rely on God’s mighty weapons. If we want to know what His weapons are we look at Ephesians 6:17 which says, “take up the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.” The Spirit of the Lord and His word are our most powerful weapons. If we reference Scripture in our prayers, we our utilizing these two powerful weapons against the enemy. The enemy wants us to stay in this state of mind of offense, hurt, failure, disappointment because it separates us from those we love. It isolates us and makes us an easier target. Instead of lulling in this state and hardening our hearts, we must turn to prayer immediately. It is through prayer that the Spirit can do heart transformation. When we start to pray over the people in our lives that we feel hard-hearted towards than we take those negative thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. It frees us from our stronghold and enables us to move forward toward healing and restoration in our relationships.
I pray that you can find encouragement from these words and that they bring restoration to any strained relationships in your life. Trust in His truths and utilize His mighty weapons to enable the healing to begin.
SHARE: Have you seen evidence of strained relationships in your life due to misplaced emotions and expectations? How can you take ownership of your emotions today?