I don’t experience the world with my emotions. It’s easier to make sense of thoughts and ideas, so when uncomfortable emotions arise, I am notoriously horrible at showing them, sorting them, and for sure, resolving them. It took many years of growing up to acknowledge this. It took just as many years to admit ‘stuff it’ wasn’t working out.
The common language for emotional resolution – ‘let go, don’t worry about it, surrender it’ – didn’t give credit to the significance of whatever I was trying to resolve. How do I just ‘let go’ of something that mattered? That had meaning? That impacted and shaped me? That still makes me question myself and my value? How do I let go of something I don’t understand? I needed a physical image for the emotional process.
Release. That’s a tangible word. It’s a fitness word, so that works for me, but it’s also a word that implies there is effort and care involved. It implies I must be intentional and willing.
Relax connects the mind and body; release connects the body and emotions. When I release the tension of emotions, my body releases tension. When I release body tension, I’m more attuned to the emotional triggers making me tight or uncomfortable. Releasing these tensions means I can live freely. Fully. I can have conversations about polarizing issues without forcing compassion (kind of impossible to do anyhow) or demolishing my reputation. I like that.
I mentioned in Step 1 that this series is not-so-secretly about working on yourself. Knowing what you’re carrying with you is definitely part of the work. Identifying what is no longer useful is part of the work. Acknowledging the obstacles that trip you up and acknowledging they are tightly stitched to your pride is part of the work. Identity is emotionally connected to all sorts of things. Here are several things I’ve discovered I’m better off releasing:
Control. It’s not mine to have. Self-control, however, is a great pursuit (and a fruit of the Spirit).
Being right. It’s not that it doesn’t matter, it’s just that the desire to be right is an unrelenting motivator and unfulfilling motivation.
Motive. Speaking of motivation, when hidden reasons for doing something drive my willingness, I am not headed in a safe direction.
Platform. A platform is rarely shared. Jesus was all about presence, not platform. He invited conversation where more than one voice could be heard. Lives were changed when He brought His presence into unexpected spaces.
Agenda. Similar to motive, but much more obvious, an agenda is focused on self-promotion. It’s often attached to a platform. Unyielding, rigid – no good. The best agenda – particularly in conversations of conflict – is to keep myself disarmed and composed, possibly disarming the other person. My composure and calm promotes peace within the conversation, and often within others around me.
Resentment. It is a bitter, bitter poison. Forgiveness is the ultimate release. I can forgive people, mistakes, circumstances, myself – but l have to be willing first.
Ruminations of blame or regret. I do what I can to restore, but I cannot rehash. It steals too much from me. I ask myself this: “So what am I going to do – go back in time?” If the answer is no, I release the temptation to press rewind.
Fear. Also known as worry, concern, shadow thoughts, anxiety, insecurity, panic, hesitation…the list is long. Fear is pervasive and can attach itself to anything, including the ‘shoulds’.
The ‘Shoulds’. Unreasonable or unrealistic suggestions, projections, accusations, or ideologies. Before I grab a ‘should’, I ask myself if I want to hold it. Saying “I don’t accept that,” saves me from the future work of release.
Release is a process. I know this because Christ’s perfecting work in and through me continues. But within my faith relationship, I’ve found that release is also a trust. When I strip the clever from my weakness and the fake from my insecurity, gather all the complicated things inside me, and lay them before the Lord in prayer, His grace covers me. His love strengthens me. His will moves me into something better.
Step 2: Release the tensions.