How to Recognize Healthy and Unhealthy Emotions

Jennifer Waddle

iBelieve Contributor
Updated Mar 05, 2019
How to Recognize Healthy and Unhealthy Emotions

Our emotions can be so real and so intense at times, we have a hard time discerning whether they are healthy or unhealthy. After all, our feelings run so deep, they can easily deceive us into thinking they are justified. Certainly, we were created to experience emotions in our relationships with God and each other. The big question is, how do we recognize healthy versus unhealthy ones?

Fortunately, the Bible gives us guidance in determining the true state of our emotions and helps us deal with them wisely. The challenge for us is to look beyond our feelings in the moment and discern what is good or not. It’s important to test our emotions in the light of Scripture in order to recognize whether they are healthy or unhealthy. Here’s how: 

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Recognize the root of the matter.

Recognize the root of the matter.

Surface emotions, often caused by reacting to the circumstances around us, can actually be fueled by a deeper source of unresolved issues. It’s important to identify what is really going on when unwanted outbursts rise to the surface.

The next time you feel like you are reacting instead of responding, ask yourself if what you are feeling is stemming from a deeper issue. Perhaps you are unaware of certain emotions you’ve buried, such as un-forgiveness, unresolved anger, or discontentment.

By recognizing the root of the matter and dealing with those buried emotions, it will be easier to react with genuine, healthy responses. Here are a few Bible passages to help you get to the root of your emotions:

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:21-23)

“Don't sin by letting anger control you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26 NLT)

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

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Recognize your true intentions.

Recognize your true intentions.

Whether we intend to or not, we can use our emotions to manipulate others. For example, exaggerating feelings of sadness may gain us favor or attention. Always playing the role of a martyr might spark a reaction we want to see from others.

It’s super important to get real with God and real with ourselves about the intentions of our emotions. Recognizing the true intent of what we are displaying will help us stop using unhealthy emotions as a manipulative tool.

Of course, if we are truly sad, we shouldn’t hide it. We should cry out to God first, then seek wise counsel from trusted friends. However, any emotion that has a hidden intent needs to be confessed:

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25 ESV)

“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.” (Colossians 3:9)

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)

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Recognize God-given emotions vs. worldly emotions.

Recognize God-given emotions vs. worldly emotions.

When Jesus cleared the tables of the money changers in the temple, He expressed a great amount of anger and grief. They were defiling God’s house and using the temple courts for selfish gain. Jesus’ emotions were completely righteous and justified.

Many of us feel intense emotion at some of the injustices in the world today. After all, we care about others and want them to be treated fairly. However, it’s important that we don’t let our emotions get the best of us and override Godly wisdom and discernment. In our attempts to stand for righteousness, we need to be careful that we aren’t letting the world’s definition of justice outweigh the true righteousness of God which is found only in Christ.

Some examples of this might be standing for a cause that is blatantly contrary to the Bible, handling an issue with hatred or contempt, and letting emotional attachments justify sin.

These Scriptures give us further guidance in determining God-given or worldly emotions:

“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.”(Proverbs 17:15)

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

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Recognize the physical toll.

Recognize the physical toll.

If your emotions are constantly taking a physical toll on you, it’s time to reevaluate how you handle life’s stresses. Yes, we will experience a variety of emotions on a regular basis. After all, we were created to express feelings of anger, sadness, disappointment, and the like. But when our emotions have a lasting physical effect on us, we need to learn to deal with them differently.

Here are some possible signs your emotions are taking a physical toll on you.

·  Trouble sleeping

·  Difficulty eating

·  Stomach pain or nausea

·  Trouble concentrating

·  Loss of interest in things you normally enjoy

If you are concerned that your emotions are having a negative effect on your health, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a medical professional and seek wise counsel from a trusted pastor. It’s not worth risking your health and wellbeing.

For more insight about unhealthy emotions, take a look at these Scriptures.

“See, O Lord, that I am in distress; my soul is troubled; my heart is overturned within me, for I have been very rebellious.” (Lamentations 1:20)

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

“I called on the Lord in distress; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:5-6)

“Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul would soon have settled in silence. If I say, ‘My foot slips,’ Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:17-19)

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Recognize habits and patterns.

Recognize habits and patterns.

Each of us responds differently to situations and circumstances. For example, my husband tends to struggle with road rage far more often than I do. However, I tend to be a lot more moody than he is.

Recognizing emotional patterns or habits can help us determine what is healthy or unhealthy. Here are some indications you may be practicing some unhealthy emotional habits.

·  You often lash out in anger

·  You cry to gain attention

·  You are frequently critical or judgmental

·  You are quick to show irritation or lack of patience

·  You handle most situations anxiously

·  You are fearful much of the time

The good news is, God is ready to break any strongholds of unhealthy emotion that you might have. Call out to Him for deliverance. He hears you!

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”(Psalm 34:4)

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” (Galatians 5:16-17)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Ultimately, we were lovingly designed to experience many different emotions. God, Himself, has been described as showing love, compassion, kindness, and even sorrow. His timely display of emotion is the best example for us, as we navigate through life in the healthiest way possible.



Jennifer Waddle is best known for encouraging Christian women in faith and life. She is the author of several books, including Prayer Worrier: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayer,and is a contributor for,  and She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth. You can find free resources at or find her books here. Jennifer is also available, via email, at She reads every single email that lands in her inbox, and would be honored to pray for your requests. 

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Originally published Tuesday, 05 March 2019.