By Father Jacob Dankasa
Special to The Texas Catholic
We have all experienced moments of varying emotions — some sad, some happy. Humans have different ways of handling or showing emotions, and being emotional is not always a negative thing. In fact, I feel that emotions bring out our humanity, and we must not be shy or afraid to show emotion even as we try to control outbursts of excessive and negative emotions.
I’m not a psychologist. But as a human being and a spiritual leader, I have come across varying emotions, either from me or from someone else. Those moments when we have success in life, when good things happen to us or to others that we know or who are close to us, we’re filled with joyful emotions. And when the opposite happens and the news is bad, opposite reactions happen. But in both cases, we express our emotions in different ways. Some show them to others, while others keep them to themselves; some want to share with someone, others don’t.
Who do you run to first when you’re worried and in dire need? And who do you run to first to break the news when you’ve hit the jackpot, when something great happens in your life? These are moments when we show emotions of sorrow or joy. I have been reflecting on my own experience, and I have realized that, in most cases, when I’m worried and disturbed I run to God and pour out to him my problems, my concerns and my needs. But whenever I’m happy — when I have a success story — I either keep it to myself or share with another person, but God is not always the first point of focus at such moments of joy. As a priest, too, I have observed that most of the time people ask for prayers at moments of need, not moments of joy. So, I have observed that we have a tendency to offer prayers of supplication rather than prayers of thanksgiving.
I feel it’s spiritually important for us to make God our focal point in moments of varying emotions – both joyful and sorrowful. We need to run to God when bad feelings come, but we also need to run to Him first when good news arrives. Of course, we know that when we pause to thank God, we are not doing Him any special favors or making Him feel bigger or more important than He already is. Our thanksgiving adds nothing to the nature of God; it does, however, add more blessings and increase our joy. To sustain our happy emotions, let’s make God our first go-to point.
There is something about prayers of thanksgiving that is so enriching and fulfilling. But most importantly, going to God first will help us know how to manage our emotions. There are moments when joyful news of a success story can make us forget ourselves in our expression of joy to others, moments when we become too prideful in sharing our news without even realizing it. When we’re filled with joyful stories, let’s run to God first and thank Him; then we can ask Him to help us manage our emotions and to know how to humbly express our joy to others. St. Paul says “Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me…” (2 Cor. 12:7). No matter what our emotions are — joyful or sorrowful — the first place to run to should be to God. We run to Him to help us know how to express our feelings. Even as we thank Him, we ask Him for guidance; He never gets tired of our asking.
And of course, I don’t even want to talk about the effects of the expression of negative emotions. Expressing our emotions when we are sad, angry, worried, or troubled can be destructive if our feelings are not properly managed. Negative emotions expressed without proper control can destroy relationships and people. And that’s all the more reason to run to God first at such moments.
Do not ignore your negative emotions; know that God can help you manage them if you ask.
In joy or in sorrow, run towards Him.
Father Jacob Dankasa is the pastor of Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Church in Irving.