If you have kids of most any age, chances are that today they felt all the feels. And, if you are a mama of said children of any age, then I’m betting that today you, too, felt all the feels.
I’m not really sure where that term came from, but it pretty much sums up society these days. We feel everything deeply, and feelings are considered the ultimate barometer for life. There’s no doubt that this feelings frenzy has affected our parenting.
We have been taught to pay special attention to our kids’ feelings and to validate them as much as we can. I’m not saying this is a terrible practice. I mean, it’s never bad to consider someone’s feelings. But can I say with all honesty that about 85% of a kid’s feelings about things are irrelevant? Kids feel 147 different ways before lunchtime. They get upset if their graham cracker is broken. They cry like their heart is broken because a dog licked their elbow. Worse than that, they will kick and scream like you’re murdering them because you’re trying to buckle them into a carseat or keep them from grabbing a hot burner or stop them from running into the street. If we pay attention to every feeling that a kid has, we will be paralyzed and completely ineffective as parents.
The truth is that God gave kids parents because they don’t have enough sense to raise themselves. So, why in the world do we give their feelings so much power in our homes? Stop the insanity, y’all. You are the parent. You know what is best. And, the best isn’t staying up until midnight (even if your preschooler is crushed that you are enforcing a bedtime). The best isn’t letting your kids yell at you (even if you are glad they know how to “express themselves”). The best isn’t letting children decide if they “feel” like going to church or not (even if they are heart-broken that they can’t stay home in their pjs).
I’m being tough on you. I know. But there’s something else that you must remember, dear reader. It isn’t just the kids who try to make too much of their feelings. We do the same thing.
We think so much about how we feel about things that we lose all sense of reality. The self-help masters and the self-esteem gurus have told us again and again that our feelings matter. That we should follow our heart, trust our gut, that we can’t help how we feel, that every feeling is valid. That’s nonsense. Most of our feelings are 100% invalid. Most are just ways that our hearts lie to us. Most are just ways that we are filled with selfishness and pride and rebellion and sin. Yes, feelings can be sinful. And very many feelings are.
Our feelings say we deserve glory. That we know better than God. That what we want is more important that what God wants. Our feelings lead us astray again and again, and they will do the same to our children, yet we continue to bow down at the altar of the feels as if it’s the only way to be a human being.
But, what if we lived in a different way? What if we parented in a different way? What if we decided that feelings were going to have very little bearing on how we make decisions? What if we prayed that God would change our feelings and desires to make them godly? To make us want what he wants? To help us recognize when our feelings are opposed to his ways and his will? What if we decided in our families that all the feels were going to take a backseat to the reasoning, the prayer, the God following, the God honoring?
Imagine how it would change our families. How it would change us.
Feelings aren’t the most important thing. They were never meant to be. Don’t teach your children otherwise by trying to validate unreasonable feelings, and don’t let the way you feel rule the way you live your life. Feelings come and feelings go. But, the truth is always true. Make sure that you’re living in the reality of God’s truth, and not in a haze of your family’s feelings. Clarity comes when you reject lying feelings and cling to what you know is real.
Your kids need to breathe the clean air of reason and sense, and so do you. Don’t live in a foggy world of finicky feelings. God’s way is narrow, but it is clear: your heart will lie to you over and over again. Don’t follow it. Don’t trust your gut. Trust in the name of the Lord your God alone, and take your cues from His word, not how you feel about things. Teach your kids to do the same. Then the next time someone gives you the sage advice that you should follow your heart, you’ll be able to look at them with all sincerity when you say, I don’t feel like it.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 14:12
So true and so right! Thank you Melissa!
Thank you, Karyn!
Much of this has been rattling around in my head for some time. I’m so thankful that God has given you the gift of expressing it so much more eloquently and concisely than I ever could!
Thanks so much, Laura!
Thank you, thank you for being a voice for godly reason!
So much truth!
I agree, and had some previous thoughts on this topic:
My Portion and My Cup
Thank you for this.
So excellent! I am thankful you write this. I am passing it along!!
This is garbage. Feelings are valid and they come and go. You can acknowledge them and let them pass. You don’t have to let make all your decisions or run your life
Oh the wisdom of this post, as opposed to the foolishness that is bound up in the heart of a child. (Prov.22:15) Children have an excuse for their foolish reliance upon feelings for decision making. God states that they will be foolish and, biologically, the lack of a developed prefrontal cortex, the executive decision making portion of the brain, make them unable to follow reason well. Adults however have been conditioned to follow their feelings because we have been used to doing it since childhood. Your approach suggested in this post is truly the elixir for the disease.
I think you have hit the nail on the head. I think this “feels” mindset is what is causing an escalating suicide rate among our young people. They become so overwrought and just dive so deeply into their feelings that they can’t find a way out. Society needs to get a grip on this!
Melissa, thanks so much for your wise writing. I agree with everything you’ve said…and yet…
I just want to offer a supplemental thought.
I think there are 2 types or definitions of the word “feelings” you’ve addressed here: the first is the idea of feelings as it applies to what you choose to do or not do (I don’t feel like going to church or I don’t feel like brushing my teeth or eating my vegetables, etc.) There are lots of things we need to do that aren’t always fun but need to be done and maturity is being able to see past those “feelings” to do what is best in the long run. I’m in total agreement with your points as it applies to these types of feelings. You buck up and do what is required and teach your children to do the same.
The second definition (and there can be overlap) is the word “feelings” as a synonym for strong emotions. (I feel angry! I feel sad. I feel like hitting my brother because he just hurt MY feelings.) This is where it gets a little bit trickier. We are emotional beings, created that way in the image of an emotional God. Yes, our emotions are affected by sin, and Proverbs has a lot to say about that. But, if we apply the first solution (buck up, stuff it down and soldier on) to strong emotions, the results can be disastrous as well. Strong emotions are an indicator, like a check engine light, an opportunity to stop and say, “Hey, what’s going on here? What do I need to do with this? Lord, can you help me?” Our natural inclination is to be lead around by our emotions, as children often are so this kind of emotional management takes practice and training.
I recently read a parenting book that quoted “Emotions are like children. You can’t put them in the trunk but you don’t want to them driving the car.” I think that perfectly sums up where I’m going with this long wordy statement. I’m writing this as an almost 40 year old woman who is just coming to the realization that I never actually learned how to properly deal with my feelings (strong emotions.) I learned to stuff them down and eat them, both literally and figuratively. I’m trying to work through this and I desperately want to teach my children how to do the same in hopes that they might avoid some of my struggles in this area, by the grace of God.
For feelings as strong emotions, the answer lies somewhere in between being led by them and completely ignoring them.
Thanks for hearing me out and thanks for your wise writing on this and other subjects.
I 100% agree with you Kelty. Thanks for spending the time to articulate it.