What is life if we were to feel nothing at all? Emotion evokes passion and passion evokes the sense of being alive. So, why then does emotion get such a bad rap?
How often have you heard the phrases: “Don’t be so emotional,” or “You shouldn’t make decisions based on your emotions.” How often have you told even yourself to not get “overly emotional”? It almost seems like to gain ultimate respect a person must take emotion out of things. It implies that emotion should not be a part of our rational thought. It also makes a person feel bad for having any emotion at all. We are taught that emotions are weak. We are taught that emotions equal problems. I will be challenging this thought process.
The dashboard lights on a car indicate what is going on underneath the hood. They can tell you how fast you are going, how much gas you have, RPMs, etc., etc. They will signal you if something is wrong. Sometimes it doesn’t even know what is wrong, but it will give you a light saying, “Hey, I think you need to check something over here!” These small lights and dials perform a huge service. They are keeping you informed about what you can’t possibly know while you are busy trying to get through rush hour traffic. They look out for you and direct you the whole time you are driving. You wouldn’t listen to someone if they told you that it was dumb to check out a signal light that came on. You wouldn’t let them convince you that the light never came on in the first place. So, why do we do this with our emotions? “Don’t be emotional,” you say?! You mean don’t use our internal signal that is actively trying to tell us something?
Emotions are your internal indicators as to what is going on with under your personal “hood” while you navigate through your days. Your emotions are valid, because they are signaling to you that something is going on. They tell you things like, “Hey, we are feeling good about your efforts, keep up the good work.” Or they could say something more along the lines of “Hey, you are feeling sad today, you should take a look into what is going on.” Whatever the emotion, it dings a light in your head to get your attention.
A lot of times, actions and emotions get jumbled and they are judged together. This is a big mistake. Emotions are the feelings and mental response to something. How someone responds in a tangible manner to these feelings should be judged separately. If these two get lumped together in the same category, then emotions get judged inaccurately. Emotions are just the indicators. Actions are what you do with those indicators.
Say for example, a signal light goes off in your head and you feel angry. Right and wrong lies within what you decide to do with that emotion signal. Ask yourself why you feel angry, and then search your options to choose an appropriate course of action. What you choose to do should be judged according to its context. The angry signal here did nothing right or wrong. The angry signal let you know that something angered you.
When a light comes on your dashboard that you don’t know what it means, it can be tempting to ignore it and hope it goes away. Likewise, if unrecognizable emotions come your way, it can be tempting to pretend it does not exist. A very popular lie that everyone has said at one point or another is, “I’m fine.” A classic brush-off of unwanted or unknown emotion, while hiding behind a polite societal stigma. People do not like taking the time analyzing this emotion most often because of fear. This eventually catches up with you though. If you do not address an emotion that is bothering you, then it doesn’t just disappear. It then becomes part of a pile that slowly rises as each emotion gets adds on. Until the emotions are addressed, you are at risk for some serious damage to be done.
If car signals remain ignored, the car will eventually break down. Your emotions are no different. A car can be replaced should it break down, but you are irreplaceable. Emotions should be treated with respect because they are a vital part of your life. Emotions are there to guide you and to warn you. It is a waste to cast them aside.
Instead of viewing emotions as irrational, weak, or a problem, as we have been taught, let’s view them as our internal dashboard lights. They are the indicators that provide the information we need so that we can plan our actions. Embrace the signals that they are and utilize their information to live well. Your emotions are valid. Period.
I love honesty. It is a healer. It is a creator of a true moment, and a genuine connection with another person. It’s the vibrant thrum of life itself.
When I was young I looked up to people who were honest and real. You know, the ones that weren’t trying to impress others, and weren’t afraid to show their flaws. They spoke their truth and expressed their emotions without hesitancy or fear. I found that these kind of people were rare and had a special shine to them. Everyone has value, but these real people…. I was in awe of them. I thought it was the most beautiful thing, and that this is what life is all about. Isn’t this what all of us truly want?
A lot of people claim to be honest. I think most people like the idea of this label because it sounds nice. Such a nice ring to it with a bow and a cherry on top. It sounds like something you can trust and rely upon. Who doesn’t want to be associated with that? However, complete honesty doesn’t come so easily. It takes work and focus to be truly honest and a kind person at the same time.
What a tricky thing, this honesty! When you are honest about something positive, people adore you for it. There is nothing better than an honest compliment. But what about when the honest truth is not a happy thing? That’s when the waters start getting murky.
A lot of us don’t want to hurt others, or we don’t want to look like a mean person. So, when honesty gets involved in those issues that are painful, we start to measure how much benefit can come from the truth vs. how much pain it will cause the other person. The benefit could possibly be of benefit, but it is a wild card and an unknown variable. Whereas the pain for the other person is almost certain, so it gives the illusion that the scale will tip in the favor of being silent. We start doubting ourselves and our feelings because we think, “I don’t want to risk losing this person over being too honest,” or “Well, maybe the honesty is not a valid enough reason to cause the other person pain.”
This is a fallacy we create, that it’s the honesty that causes pain. We then start shying away from the truth and see it as inconsiderate to others. We see ourselves as being the bad guy for pointing something out. Or sometimes we get angry at other people’s honesty because it seems like they are creating a problem. The truth, though, is that honesty isn’t causing the pain, it is simply acknowledging what is there. So, if what is there is conflict or hurt, then yes, the honesty will be painful, but it’s not the honesty’s fault.
It’s kind of like getting a screening for cancer. If a screening is done and no cancer is found, then a person can feel great about the procedure. However, if cancer is found, then pain suddenly is brought to the person. The person now has to face something they didn’t want to face. Although pain is there, it wasn’t the screening that caused it. The screening merely indicated what was already lying under the surface. Additionally, even though it is painful, the screening gave them a chance to fight it, rather than letting the cancer kill them unknowingly.
Honesty is much like the screening. It is scanning for what is underneath the surface and putting it out in the open so that it can be assessed. Isn’t that an incredible tool? To be able to know what is there so that if something is wrong, it can be worked on? Denial and silence is only a band-aid as it only covers up a wound to hopefully forget that it is there. What good then is this denial/silence actually doing?
As I grew older, I started to notice a trend with my influences and heroes in that the honesty that I appreciated so much, was frowned upon by quite a number of people. At times they faced real persecution for merely stating their truth. I was shocked by this. I couldn’t wrap my head around the pushing aside of such beauty and vibrancy that these people brought to the world.
When I started taking my baby steps into my adulthood, I wanted to follow in the path of honesty more than anything. I met a lot of opposition. It has been battle after battle, verbal beating after verbal beating. One of the things that would get to me is that people would say I was being rebellious. I couldn’t handle that label because that is not at all what I thought I was doing. I thought I was just simply trying to point out the true honest facts. I didn’t see this as making me a rebel. Wasn’t a rebel someone with bad things on their hearts? Wasn’t it someone who selfishly goes off on their own without regard to the people who love them? Wasn’t it an immature and childish person? This was not me! This was not my reasoning or my desires! How could they say such things about me?
But I was a rebel, I just didn’t know it. Everyone I admired and looked up to were rebels as well. We were rebels because we acted differently than what these people wanted that from us. They wanted compliance above understanding. They didn’t want to talk about certain things. It’s not to say that they don’t want to talk about anything, but there were just some things that they don’t want to bring into the light to be analyzed for whatever reason. We defied them when they tried to make us silent. We ignored them when they requested our blind obedience to them. We said, “No, we have to say what’s on our hearts, no matter the cost.”
On the surface, honesty is the warm, fuzzy teddy bear that we want to carry in our arms. But legitimate honesty is a warrior. It has to train and prepare because the battle could come at any moment. And thus, honesty, the soft teddy bear, becomes an unlikely rebel.
I still struggle with it at times, especially when I see people pained by what I say. But I’ve seen too much good that comes from honesty to stop now. It gets me into a lot of trouble at times, but the freedom and the feeling of life that comes from it…. there’s no comparison. If that makes me a rebel, then I will be a rebel. I don’t want to fight, but if that is what I must do, then I will learn. So, give me honesty or give me death.