If you keep negating your emotions you’ll hurt yourself and people you love. Eventually you’ll burnout. This is true for pastors and other workers seeking to serve God.

It may seem like your feelings, desires, and needs diminish your productivity. But research on emotional intelligence proves the opposite to be the truth. Caring for your emotions and the emotions of other people is your secret source of flourishing, creativity, and success in your relationships and work.

Kit (not his real name) pastors a growing multi-ethnic church that he planted in the inner city. He cares for those who are poor, homeless, and sexually broken. He reaches people that often get left out of churches and disciples them to Jesus.

But there were festering conflicts on his church staff and he got compassion fatigue. His leadership effectiveness was being diminished so his elders sent him to the Soul Shepherding Institute.

Kit explained, “I had this belief that emotions are unreliable and should not lead me in any way. I tried not to name or even acknowledge any negative emotions in my life —I covered them up and repressed them.”

Instead of feeling his anger and underlying emotional needs, he shoved it all down and pushed forward.

But denying negative emotions diminishes your positive emotions too. Kit was missing out on enjoying moments with people. And he was feeling more and more distant from the tender love of his Savior.

Negating his emotions also hurt his family and church. He realized that he unknowingly taught his wife, children, and church to repress their emotions by constantly giving them solutions rather than empathy.

He admitted, “My wife feels alone. I have not been able to embrace her emotions with empathy and compassion. And my daughter is struggling with anxiety. I have not been giving her a safe place to express herself without judgment.”

Avoiding emotion had also contributed to conflicts on his staff that threatened the health and unity of his church.

The big takeaway for Kit from the Soul Shepherding Institute was that emotions, whether positive or negative, needed to be felt and voiced.

There are 4 ways that emotions can help you to love and lead well:

  1. Soul Care. Your soul speaks in emotions and longings. If you slow down to rest or get away to be alone and quiet in nature then your soul will start talking to you about your deeper feelings and needs for God’s love (Psalm 42:1-5).
  1. Self-Awareness. When you feel and verbalize your emotions the world of relationships opens up to you. It helps to pray the Psalms that give wording for praying your emotions to God (Psalm 119:23-24). Also you can ask a friend to listen and give you empathy (James 1:19).
  1. Hearing God. The most over-looked aspect of hearing God’s voice is feeling your emotions. We discern God’s voice not just with our thoughts, but also with our feelings. The feelings and desires of your heart are an important channel for knowing (Psalm 16:7, 37:4).
  1. Energy. When someone validates your emotions, comforts a hurt, or encourages you in a struggle it is empowering. That’s why they’re called “e-motions” (Psalm 55:22; Philippians 4:12-14).

In the Soul Shepherding Institute we offer teaching on tools to help you be healthy and wise with your emotions in your relationships and leadership.

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Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: Denying our emotions leaves us functioning inauthentically and can ultimately lead to burnout. Serving God with wholeness and health includes paying attention to our emotions. In this episode, hear from Bill and Kristi and the stories of others of how discovering deeper emotions allows God to heal and be energized for ministry. 

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