I’ve heard many people say, “I feel what I feel, and I can’t help my feelings.” I think that is a fallacy. Sure, sometimes I feel blue or frustrated or even downright depressed. But I’ve learned I can help how I feel. If I take my feelings out of the equation and simply look at the facts, I often find that my feelings are wrong. It’s like hearing one person’s side of the story and thinking it sounds perfectly reasonable until you hear the other person’s side. For example, I may feel snubbed by some friends who went to lunch without inviting me. If I let my feelings take hold of that snub, suddenly everyone hates me and I have no friends. That’s really not the truth. I have many friends. Few people probably hate me. Many simply don’t care enough to hate anyone. They are too wrapped up in their own life to think about others, good or bad. Therefore, my feelings are wrong. My friends who didn’t invite me to lunch probably didn’t even think about it, or were meeting for a certain purpose that didn’t involve me. After all, I’m not the center of the universe.
In order to reign in those crazy feelings and return to a balanced mindset, I find something else to do to occupy my thoughts, like read to my children, work on a project, or call someone who might need an encouraging friend. Second, I pour out my heart to God. Jesus knows all there is to know about being snubbed. Thinking about his betrayal really puts my petty feelings in perspective. Once I’ve vented, I feel better, and no one else is hurt by my tirade. I forgive my friends, whether they know they’ve done anything to offend me in the first place. I know in my mind it wasn’t intentional, so why let my feelings make a mountain out of a molehill and ruin a relationship?
Now, I didn’t have this epiphany from anything in my own life. Instead, I gradually realized from watching my children how easy it is to get offended over nothing. Then, that offense becomes blown up as everyone jumps in and begins making excuses, pointing fingers, and justifying their own feelings. And, boy, does everyone have feelings. I began to see myself in their bickering and how often I had damaged or destroyed relationships over my feelings of rightness and entitlement. I want to save my children that needless hurt.
So, now during fits of feelings, I do more than send the opponents to their respective corners to cool down. Instead, I have the one who is feeling friendless repeat a key phrase until she begins to recover her composure. “My mommy and daddy love me, and so does Jesus.” That’s the truth. When all else falls apart, her father and I love her like no other human. And when we are not there or gone from this earth, Jesus will never forsake her. If a child can get those truths deeply planted in her heart, then those feelings of disappointment and anger will not have room to take root.
My goal in my children’s spiritual development is to anchor their hearts to the Savior. I cannot right every wrong or protect them from every failure. Certainly, I would if I could, like most parents. But that would not allow them to grow into spiritually mature adults. Grown ups who persevere in spite of difficulty. Who stand in the face of adversity. Who finish the race well. That accomplishment begins very humbly by overcoming feelings and believing the truth.