Day 16: Freedom for Emotion
‘…the power of deep feeling seems to serve me, only to deceive me.’
Emotions confirm our wonderful, conflictual humanity. St. John Paul ll champions our range of deep feelings yet doesn’t equate love with sensations of love. True love, he insists, must ‘shape the material that sensual and emotional reactions provide’ (Love and Responsibility). Our integration involves learning how to root emotional responses in truth. That may involve discovering the reality of what another needs—tailoring needs and longings to what is best for the beloved; it may also mean assessing the needs and losses we experience as individuals and learning to feel and express those emotions.
We can express emotional needs without pressuring anyone to fulfill them! It is enough to feel our longing for greater wholeness and to offer our humanity to be known and loved.
Easier said than done. My growth in emotional freedom involved recognizing and overcoming two obstacles. First, I decided to welcome darker emotions—sorrow, anger, regret, resentment, disappointment, grief. I struggled here because my family-of-origin, though exuberant in sunny emotions, had serious limits in facing the deeper hues. I did too. It would feel almost wrong to ‘give in’ to distress by admitting it. But I learned I could recognize hard stuff and feel what I must before Jesus and others.
I began to answer honestly to Annette’s and a few trusted friends': ‘How are you?’ In the right hands, my truthful response invoked mercy, the relief of being known. Friends can bear my burdens only if I own and share them. Good, hard emotions prompt me to do so.
Secondly, I learned to navigate affectional needs. Coming out of a sexually disintegrated background, I chose to separate wheat from chaff: I learned to steward my emotional need for same-sex friends from the counterfeit of ‘gay’ love. It wasn’t easy but Jesus and friends helped me to find the narrow way of securing masculine connection and refusing seduction.
When I met Annette, I could rest and simply exhale in her sweet trustworthy presence. But she had needs too, and I learned what secured her in love by reading her emotions. After 42 years together, I am more inclined than ever to cultivate emotional connection with her. I’ve many feelings but am responsible for conforming them to love for her, and from there, to all my intimates. I want to live free in my emotions by grounding them in truth, for love. ‘Jesus, rouse the gift we are. Help us to attend to the treasure you summon from the trash. Free us from our constant faultfinding and free us for vestiges of paradise in our memories and in our lives today. We refuse the liar who tries to rewrite Eden out of our histories. Unite us to the home of our original dignity.’
‘Jesus, have mercy on us as Your Church. We have abused weaker members, including children, and protected ourselves. We have violated the most vulnerable. In Your mercy, free us to superabound with justice. Grant us Kingdom discernment and courage to reform ourselves. May our repentance grant us Kingdom authority to strengthen the weak, discipline violators, and restore the violated.’