Lysa TerKeurst: When Emotions Become Unglued
By Hannah Goodwyn
CBN.com Senior Producer
CBN.com - Celebrated author Lysa TerKeurst's best-selling book, Unglued, seeks to encourage believers to make "wise choices in the midst of raw emotions".
In an interview with CBN.com, TerKeurst spoke about how emotions play a role in our lives, how God feels about them and how we can be wise about how we react to trying situations and relationships. Here are excerpts from that conversation:
Why do you think God gave us emotions?
Lysa Terkeurst: God gave us emotions so we could more deeply experience life, but not destroy life. God wants us to feel. He designed our bodies so that we could process our feelings and think about life according to the senses, and the emotions, and the hormones, and all of those things.
I can be empathetic. I can be compassionate. I can be ecstatic. I can, when appropriate, be angry. All of those things are good. When they're handled in the right way and processed in the right way, they work for us. But when they start working against us is when we start doing two things that I talk about in the book, either exploding, which is pushing our emotions out with such force that it creates damage, or when we start stuffing, pushing our feelings down with such dishonesty about what's really going on, that we create bitterness, and anxiety, and depression.
Since we are created in God's image, do you think God has the same kind of emotions we do?
TerKeurst: Obviously Jesus had emotion when he was here; and that is the only picture of God in the flesh that we can see. So, you know, we definitely saw Jesus had great empathy and compassion. He would stop in the midst of an extremely busy schedule, and love on one cast-aside, an unnoticed member of society. Jesus put great importance on that person, which lets me know, you've got to have deep feelings of empathy in order to do that.
But then we also see him in the temple, overturning the money-changers tables, in great, explosive, righteous, but still anger. He was angry. Then we see Jesus in times of conflict, and how He handled conflict when He was about to be betrayed by Judas. He knew he was going to get betrayed, and how He handled that situation.
He hung on the cross shortly thereafter and said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." He had tears, and he had laughter. So yes, I think that Jesus was a display, a picture for us of God, and if Jesus had emotion and feelings, then certainly I think God does, too.
Unglued identifies four emotional ways we tend to react to situations and people. What are they?
TerKeurst: There's the exploder who blames others. This is what I would tend to do with my children, unfortunately. "If you would put your shoes on when I tell you to put your shoes on, we wouldn't be running late. But because you didn't put your shoes on when I told you to put your shoes on, now we're running late, and now I'm angry, and it's all your fault that I'm angry…." My emotional reaction is someone else's fault. Someone else has caused it.
There's the exploder who shames themselves. Like, we have one of these explosive moments, but instead of blaming others, an hour later we start to shame ourselves. We think of all of the people who would have handled that so much better. We think of our sweet friend who just is like the picture of calm, and we think... she would have been just a picture of acceptance and love. We shame ourselves about what a bad Christian we are.
Then, there's the stuffer who creates barriers, who is the kind of person that withdraws in every sense. They're not processing externally. They're doing everything internally. They want to think about it and not talk about it. They hold you at arm's length. Proverbs 10 says, "He who has hatred in his heart has lying lips." In other words, when we're storing up frustration, and bitterness, and hatred in our heart, but saying I'm fine, we have lying lips. That's no better than someone who explodes.
Then there's the stuffer who collects retaliation rocks. They're a stuffer for a little while, and they stuff and stuff and stuff to keep the peace. But then, they're going to get pushed one too many times. What they've really done, is that all of that stuffing is really all collected proof of how bad you are, and how good I am. So, I'm going to explode on you with all of this proof of all of these times that you've hurt me, and disappointed me, and made life difficult for me. I'm going to rock your world, literally, with all of these rocks of retaliation.
In the book, you talked about an "unglued" feeling. What is that?
TerKeurst: It's when somebody bumps into your happy. Maybe they disrespect you, maybe they treat you in a way that you feel misunderstood, maybe they criticize you, maybe they blow you off, maybe they reject you, maybe they hurt you in some way. It's that instant feeling, where you feel like, "Oh no, I'm starting to fall apart here," you know? And, what am I going to do in that moment, that moment of just things unraveling a little bit. Things aren't as good as I thought they were, or I'm about to step into conflict, and I don't want conflict; or my boss is about to really get angry at me and I don't want my boss to be angry at me. It's just in that little moment, of I'm feeling that gentle, or sometimes not so gentle, unraveling. That's that unglued feeling."
What Bible verses are helpful for learning how to manage our emotional reactions?
TerKeurst: In the book, I talk about looking at the story of King Jehoshaphat in II Chronicles chapter 20. I think it's 2nd Chronicles chapter 20, starting in verse 3, where King Jehoshaphat finds out that there are three countries that are banded together and are marching against him. It's such a picture of a man waking up one morning, and getting that "unglued" feeling… He's learned that the world is marching against him; at least it feels that way.
The first three words teach me so much because it says, "Alarmed, Jehoshaphat, resolved." I think that's such a picture of how my name needs to be book ended into those two realities. "Alarmed, Lysa, resolved." Because in the moment, I love that it tells us that he was alarmed, so he had that feeling. But he wasn't dictated by that feeling, he had already predetermined that he was going to honor God in every situation, no matter what. He was alarmed, but at the same time, he was resolved. Then, we get to see the beautiful picture of how it worked out so much better.
Can you tell a difference in the way you react after writing Unglued?
TerKeurst: Yeah, I mean, I'm more aware of it. That's what I want this book to do for people. If we're aware of our tendencies, we can understand, OK, I tend to be an exploder that blames others; therefore, I know I need to pause. If I can give people those spiritual and emotional tools to improve their conflict resolution and therefore improve their relationships, even just 10 percent, that's phenomenal.
Hannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for CBN.com. For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.
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