Know Thyself

Photo by Fares Hamouche on Unsplash

Let’s just say it. The world has gone nuts. Maybe it was always this nuts, but with a camera in everyone’s hands, we have the ability the view just how nuts things truly are. It is quite embarrassing how many public freakouts and confrontations are taking place all over the United States and the rest of the world.

Whether in person or online, it is never a good idea to lose control and let your anger or other emotions dictate your actions. I am not saying emotions are unhealthy, and I am certainly not advising anyone to ignore or downplay their feelings. Rather, feel what you feel, and then act in line with your values and the kind of person you want to be. You may feel like angrily yelling at someone for not wearing a mask in public, but is that who you really want to be? Do you want to be known as the crazy person starting confrontations with strangers in public? Do you want your employer, your family, or your friends to witness you losing control?

In order to navigate the contentious world we live in, it is important that we keep an eye not only on the issues, but also on ourselves. We need to know ourselves in three crucial areas so that we can engage with our emotions and with other people effectively: our past, our present, and our future.

We need to know ourselves in three crucial areas so that we can engage with our emotions and with other people effectively.

Our Past

We are all shaped by our experiences and relationships for good or for ill. The past do not define us, but it does influence us. For some, we carry in our hearts emotional wounding or trauma from abuse, neglect, or betrayal in our past. When we come across something or someone in our present that touches on those unhealed wounds, we can find ourselves overcome with emotions and reacting more in response to our past than to whatever present circumstance triggered our wound.

We are also shaped not only by negative experiences but positive ones as well. Growing up, we learned from our families and cultural environments. What we value, what we celebrate, what we prefer, all of that is influenced by our past. However, not everyone shared those past experiences. Not everyone shared those cultural values. We must be careful lest we mistake cultural or personal values for absolutes.

Our Present

Being mindful of our present state will go a long way to helping us avoid conflict. Do you remember those Snickers commercials? Someone will be acting out in hurtful ways only to be told to eat a Snickers and calm down. See, they were really not angry, merely hangry (so hungry it made them angry). Before we go charging into a conflict, we need to assess our own mental, emotional, and physical state. Am I hungry? Am I stressed out by something or someone else? Am I physically exhausted? Even if your cause is just and your anger righteous, failing to take an honest look at your own state can be disastrous. You could find yourself saying or doing things that hurt your cause rather than help it.

Our Future

What kind of person do you want to be? Do you want to be known as a “shoot first, ask questions later” kind of person? Do you want to be known as someone who exemplifies the love of God and the fruit of the Spirit? Knowing who you are striving to be and assessing your reactions in light of that can help you say “No” to impulses that do not line up with your true values.

In the heat of the moment, whether you are about to send off an angry text or you are confronted by an angry protestor of some sort, pause to take a breath before your write, say, or anything you regret. Feel your feelings, but act according to your values.

Published by Dr. Sam Draper

Sam has been with Greencastle Christian Church in Greencastle, Indiana since 2017. He is married to Jessie and they have one son, Joey. Sam completed his Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Formation in 2019. Sam’s favorite hobbies include biking, reading, playing board games, and eating Chipotle burritos.

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