How to Control Your Feelings {When They're Out of Control}

Originally published Thursday, 04 April 2013.

A friend asked me the other day how I'm able to keep my feelings from running my life. My answer?

I don't always. But I'm learning.

From 0 to 10

I had a bad afternoon with the boys last week. A rather long day filled with disobedience and hard hearts left me feeling disillusioned, and as I sat in my driveway watching them play basketball I literally felt my emotions start to run away.

I started off embarrassed by their behavior. Then I got mad because it was what seemed like the millionth time I had asked them to obey with no apparent response. Anger moved into frustration because sometimes it just feels like nothing ever changes around here. Frustration led to a feeling of being completely overwhelmed at my own lack of ability to change their hearts. And finally, feeling overwhelmed moved to straight hopelessness and a desire to just. give. up.

In a matter of about two minutes I went from 0 to 10 on the emoto-to-meter (you know, the one that measures when mama's going to snap??) and ended the day feeling like a total failure as a mom. Ever been there?

Even if you're not a mom, my guess is that you've experienced something similar to what I'm talking about. Maybe your boss made a snide remark at work that made you think he didn't like you. And of course, we all know that if your boss doesn't like you, you'll never get a promotion. And if you never get a promotion, you'll never make more money. And if you never make more money, you'll never be able to afford that new car your family desperately needs, PLUS all that time and money spent on your education will just go right down the tubes. Maybe you should just quit now before he fires you?

See how it works?

Can you change the way you feel??

Women have been saying for years that we can't change how we feel. We get mad when people (OK especially men) tell us how to feel, or make us believe we don't have a right to feel the way we want to. We've fought hard to make our voices heard and our opinions count, so learning that our emotions don't have to control us can be a bitter pill to swallow. Frankly, it's one I still struggle with.

I'm not trying to say that our emotions and feelings are always wrong, but they certainly can be. God gave us emotions as a barometer—they tell us both what's happening in our hearts and in our surroundings. Sometimes, they're right on the money. But more often than not, they need to come under the authority of the Word of God.

Even if we do have a right to our own feelings,we don't have to submit to them or let them control us. With God's help, we can change the way we feel. But it requires a choice, and before we go any further, you have to make yours.

1. Do you believe the Word of God is true?

If you do, it's your basis for living and foundation of truth. It's where you go to understand the world, and the place you turn to when it doesn't make sense.

2. Will you study the Bible, taking the time to understand what it says?

If not, the Bible may never be anything more to you than a bag of tricks. God's Word isn't a magic trick or a wiggly nose (anyone not know what I'm talking about there??), it's a solid rock upon which to build your life. Spending time getting to know the God who wrote it is the difference between it just being a classic book, and a book having the power to radically change your life.

3. Will you choose to believe what the Bible says is true, even when what you see and feel screams something different?

Here's the key: Forcing your emotions and feelings to get in line requires the sometimes hard choice to say no to them, and yes to what the Bible says. It's a simple truth, but difficult application, and sometimes it will require every ounce of self-control you can muster. That's why it's so important to have the other two questions above settled in your mind and heart before even trying.

Once you've answered these questions, you're ready to move on and learn how to control your feelings by replacing the lies with the truth. To do that, click over to my personal blog. This post is a part of a series on learning to control our emotions.

Question: Do you believe you can change the way you feel? Why, or why not?