In the movie classic, Tootsie, struggling actress Sandy (Teri Garr) is furious with her friend Michael (Dustin Hoffman) and distressed about her failing career. After trying to be sweet and “nice,” pretending that everything in her life is “fine,” she captures a truth about knowing oneself. She rants and declares: “I’m going to feel this way until I don’t feel this way anymore.”
Finally, Sandy reaches the place which many on the spiritual journey do, when we realize that we can no longer maintain false poise or hold one more forced smile. Instead, we choose to feel our feelings, accept and embrace them, and use what we’ve learned to transform our lives.
To say that we’re never afraid, angry, anxious, broken-heartened, disappointed, discouraged, embarrassed, overwhelmed, upset, or a myriad of other feelings, is to pretend that we’re robots. It denies our humanity — and ultimately, our divinity.
Theologian and philosopher Augustine of Hippo asked: “How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self?” So he prayed: “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know You.”
Our awareness of ourselves and our relationship with God are inextricably linked. If we deny ourselves sacred time for self-connection, through contemplation, meditation, prayer and reflection, we disconnect from God.
Furthermore, we struggle with life, believing that we’re emotionally healthy and spiritually mature because we deny our “negative” feelings and refuse to acknowledge them. Sometimes we stuff them deep down inside where they begin to destroy us, in body, mind and spirit, from the inside out.
No matter where we are on our life’s journey, when we deny our feelings, we stall. We avoid the divine messages our feelings provide. We forget the truth: That God is always with us and within us, even when our candidate loses; we don’t get the job we wanted; we labor to release an addiction; our children or grandchildren don’t call or text; our “forever” sweetheart doesn’t love us anymore; an ailment doesn’t heal as we expected or desired; we have an accident; a friend moves away and forgets us; no one likes our social media posts; we watch a loved one die.
Yet, as we grow in spiritual maturity and emotional health, we realize that the feelings we believed would hinder us actually help us discern what we need and how we’d most enjoy living. As we acknowledge the feelings, we also discover that they draw us closer to God, divine creator, unconditionally loving, infinitely compassionate, eternally grace-giving.
Ultimately, our feelings are part of our divinity, allowing us to know and embrace the truth of ourselves and others, too. When we feel sad, confused, excited, joyous, or anything else, we’re feeling the life of God within. We know that we’re alive – even when it isn’t fun.
Let us get the feelings. Then, they won’t get us.
© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.