Are you in bondage to negative emotions? Author Mary Southland is known as the “Stress Buster” and in the interview below, she gives practical tips about how you too can overcome negative emotions God’s way.
Mary’s books include Coming Out of the Dark: A Journey Out of Depression, Escaping the Stress Trap, and Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry.
Mary is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry. You sign up for their free devotions at www.girlfriendsingod.com.
Connect with Mary directly at http://www.marysoutherland.com.
1. What are your favorite scriptures that help you manage your emotions and why?
- Proverbs 25:28: “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”
This verse reminds me that when my emotions are out of control, I am not allowing the Holy Spirit to be in control.
- Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Oh boy, do I need this verse! It is one of my favorites. As I saturate my life with the Word of God, it becomes a filter for my emotions.
As my mama used to say, “What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket.” What is in my heart will come out of my mouth.
When I am emotionally right, my words will be right.
- Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”
Probably my favorite when it comes to dealing with out-of-control emotions. My emotions reflect the peace of God in my heart. It really is that simple.
2. What are 3 of your best tips to help others manage their emotions in Godly ways?
Emotions are a gift from God. While emotions themselves are not sin, the place we give them can be.
Since God created us with the capacity for strong emotions, we can rest assured that He has a plan for managing them. It is a step-by-step plan that begins with our commitment to being honest and transparent about every emotion, especially the negative ones.
Step one: Identify the source of emotions. Proverbs 23:7 (NIV) reminds us of a simple but powerful truth, “For as a man thinks, so is he.” Negative emotions are nourished in many ways – by daily challenges, a painful past, hurt or rejection, an undisciplined thought life or Satan himself.
Some people qualify as “carriers” because they not only transmit negative emotions, but they constantly use others as their personal dumping ground.
In managing negative emotions, it is imperative that we identify their source and eliminate it.
Step two: Label emotions correctly. We are masters at mislabeling emotions because we fear exposing our true emotions will affect the way others see us. It is time for us to take off and burn the emotional masks we wear because healing and restoration begin at the point of emotional integrity.
Step three: Learn to manage emotions. It is not enough to acknowledge the presence of negative emotions or even understand why they exist. We must take action because if we don’t, negative emotions will.
We must not only be able to manage our emotions, but we must also be able to respond correctly to negative emotions produced by the sometimes-abrasive behavior of others.
The people in our lives watch carefully, curious to see what happens when the pressure is on. Our prayer should be the same as the psalmist, “Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires” (Psalm 51:10).
The success of emotional integrity lies in the one who holds the reins. We must constantly choose to surrender every emotion to the supernatural control of God because when we do, the Holy Spirit empowers that choice, produces control, and transforms emotional bondage into emotional freedom.
For example, learning to control anger is a crucial life lesson. The people around us want to see what happens when life pushes our buttons or squeezes our emotions.
While God created us with the capacity for emotions, it is our responsibility to control them instead of allowing them to control us.
We choose where to invest every ounce of emotional energy we possess. Like Jesus, we must learn to invest wisely, in order to reap the benefits of healthy emotions, harnessed and trained by godly discipline.
3. What sabotaging thoughts (lies) do Believers need to release that keep them in bondage to negative emotions?
- Thoughts of revenge
Revenge was never meant for the hands of man – only the hands of God. In the hands of man, it is a destructive weapon that will only reap vicious harm. In the hands of God, it is a tool of restoration and justice.
- Thoughts of past hurt
We can allow the past to defeat us or we can harness it and use it for power in our lives today. The will of God admits no defeat. And anything that touches the life of a Believer has passed through the Father’s hands, with His permission. He will use it for good.
- Thoughts of defeat
Every defeat contains a seed of victory. God doesn’t waste any experience in our lives. We need to sift through every painful experience until we find a seed of victory.
4. What are some things Believers can do at the “moment of decision” when they are tempted to practice destructive behavior when emotionally upset?
When Jesus saw moneychangers desecrating the temple of God, He was furious! Yet, He modeled the right way to harness emotions and use them for good.
I have heard many Bible teachers and preachers attempt to soften the response of Jesus, but the truth is – He was irate! I can almost see His face shrouded in plain old fury as He contemplated His options.
If I had been in His place, I can tell you that those wicked men would have been toast, but before Jesus faced the intruders, He stepped aside to braid a whip, not because He had completed “Whip Braiding 101,” but because He was taking the time to harness His emotions.
Jesus then used that harnessed anger to drive the moneychangers out of the temple, correcting a wrong.
Press the pause button. I have the picture of an emotional pause button implanted in my brain. I don’t always use it, but when I do, the results are certainly better. Like Jesus in the temple we need to stop, mentally or physically remove ourselves from the tense situation, and gain control of our emotions.
Breathe. I have a breathing exercise that I use when I am tense, angry … experiencing any out-of-control emotion.
I breathe in slowly through my nose to the count of 7. Then hold that breath for the count of 7 and then let it out through my mouth to the count of 7.
Intense emotions have a physiological impact on us. This breathing exercise helps diffuse that impact a little.
Pray. Cry out to God for help. More than you want to do the right thing in a moment when you could so easily do the wrong thing, He wants you to do the right thing.
We tell our children and now our grandchildren that it only takes one wrong decision made in one minute to change the rest of your life. Ask the Father for self-control and for wisdom about how to handle the situation.
Ask for help. Pride is an ugly thing and often keeps us from asking for help. You may need to seek the help of a friend or your pastor or you may need to see a Christian counselor.
God has gifted these men and women because He knew we would need them. We should never be ashamed or feel guilty for using the help God has provided for us.
Connect with Mary at www.marysoutherland.com
I thank Mary for sharing her wisdom with us!
Be blessed in health, healing and wholeness,
Creator of the Take Back Your Temple program