Healing & Wholeness in Christ: Emotional Wellness

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Ever wish you were healthier?

Long to live a more balanced life?

Desire a sense of wholeness?

This Lent, using the Wellness/Wholeness Wheel as our guide, and trusting that our baptism is at the core of all healing, we are exploring health of body, mind and spirit.

Last week Sparky Lok shared about vocational wellness. This week, we continue our journey with Amanda Heintzelman as our guide, leading us into an exploration of emotional wellness.

Being emotionally well will help you live life abundantly. It may not be an easy path, but it is worth it. Let’s journey towards healing and wholeness together!

Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.
— Mark 12:28b-31

We can all benefit from intentional focus on emotional literacy as a building block of our ability to love God with all of our hearts, and with all our souls, and with all our minds, and with all our strength.  And it’s so crucial to understand that in order to love our neighbor as ourselves, we need to start with ourselves. The authors of the wholeness wheel state that “being emotionally well means feeling the full range of human emotions and expressing them appropriately. Self-awareness is the first step. Recognizing and honoring your own feelings and those of others.” Being emotionally well is what allows us to develop and express empathy. It allows us to connect with God and with others, and at the heart of the wholeness wheel we see that we are physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually hardwired for connection. Mr. Rogers knew a thing or two about emotional wellness when he taught us that “anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

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Pretty much everything I know about emotional wellness I learned from Mister Rogers and a vulnerability researcher at the University of Houston, Dr. Brene Brown. I’m not going to be able to do justice to all the material and insights from a 31 season 865 episode legendary children’s TV series and a New York Times best selling author, academic, researcher, and viral TED talk speaker in one short reflection, but I would like to share some of their thoughts. I particularly want to focus tonight on what I would consider to be public enemy number 1 to our emotional wholeness, and that is shame.

Shame: Public Enemy Number 1

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Shame is often referred to as the “master emotion” by researchers. It is the “never good enough” emotion that has the power to make us believe that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of connection, belonging, or even love. Shame is the fear of disconnection. Dr. Brown describes three points that are key in understanding shame:

1) “We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame are those who lack the capacity for empathy and human connection. Here’s your choice: ‘Fess up to experiencing shame or admit that you’re a sociopath.

2) We’re all afraid to talk about shame. Just the word is uncomfortable.

3) The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives.”

Empathy: the antidote

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Shame is often confused with guilt, but there is a very important distinction. Guilt says “I’ve done something bad.” Shame says “I am bad.” You see, guilt can be a constructive emotion that drives us to apologize, make amends, change our behavior, and grow. Shame on the other hand drives us to disconnect, hide, or lash out. Shame is “not a compass for moral behavior. It’s much more likely to drive destructive, hurtful, immoral, and self-aggrandizing behavior than it is to heal it. Why? Because where shame exists, empathy is almost always absent.” Empathy is the hallmark of emotional wellness. Just as your physical wellness can be measured by your blood pressure and heart rate, your emotional wellness can be measured by your capacity for empathy. Empathy is the antidote to shame.

Loving God, you are our hope for healing and wholeness. Free us from the shackles of shame. Fill us with empathy as we recognize and honor our own feelings and those of others. In your love, lead us in the way of life abundant.

Amanda married into Saint Luke 11 years ago when she and Matt got hitched. Fun fact: they were the first wedding reception hosted in the newly renovated Schlack Hall! Amanda serves on the worship committee, but is probably best known at Saint Luke as Mint's (the service dog) handler and Laura Jane's mom.