In last week’s post about the “Why” of why guys need to learn to manage their emotions, I indicated Jesus was the only one who could properly manage His emotions since He was God and we were not. I also suggested we needed a heart transformation as we learn more about managing our emotions.
In order to start the transformation though, it’s important that we know “How” our hearts became distorted before we can know “What” to do about it.
As you read in the last post, Simon Sinek suggests this same methodology for any problem: determine the “Why” first, and then the “How”, before you decide on “What” to do.
So how did we receive emotions in the first place and how did they become distorted sinful reactions?
God Created Emotions
A Christian perspective on emotions originates in the creation of humanity. God created humans with the ability to feel and interact emotionally. Unlike animals, God made humans in His image, which is clearly stated in the first book of the Bible:
God created man in His own image, in the image of God. He created him; male and female He created them.—–Genesis 1:27
Man Distorted His Emotions
Breaking that down, God made Adam and Eve with an intellectual ability, referred to in the Scriptures as the mind, and emotional capabilities, frequently called the heart. God also gives us volitional capacity—which is called the will.
Our will is the cognitive process by which we decide on and commit to a particular course of action. It’s how we respond to our experiences.
“Being made in God’s image means we have our own mind, emotions, and will.”— Charles R. Swindoll
God’s desire was that humans would use our minds, our hearts, and our wills to obey Him.
It was a great plan!
Until Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan and couldn’t manage their feelings and their minds. Their hearts turned sour. Their wills became stubborn and resistant. The first couple did not know how to manage the emotions of the experience.
Sin entered the world.
Fortunately, we now have the gift of God’s grace that gives us a second chance to learn how to control our emotions before they begin to control us.
Men Are Taught to Manage Emotions
Today, cultural and social barriers imposed on men cause emotional reservedness and a lack of physical intimacy with other men who can help us learn to manage or emotions.
The training ground where most of us learn to emote and manage (or mismanage) our emotions is the household in which we grow up and the workplace where we have experienced both good and bad emotions. Often, the way young men see their parents behave, especially our fathers and bosses, becomes the blueprint for how and what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior.
For some men schooled in the traditional models of masculinity, their emotions morph into anger and violence towards others. Sometimes even towards themselves. This cultural expectation is an aggressive approach and/or dominant behavior helps you be in control.
Conversely, some men buy into the false belief they are less manly whenever they display emotion. You know, the just “bite the bullet” or “man up” mentality. This often leads to an unhealthy suppression of emotions.
In my experience, men either over-express or under-express (suppress) their emotions because they never learned proper emotional management techniques.
According to Dr. Niobe Way, a professor of applied psychology at New York University in a New York Times article, Teaching Men to Be Emotionally Honest, many boys, especially early and middle adolescents, develop deep, meaningful friendships that do rival the emotional honesty and intimacy of friendships between girls.
However, Dr. Way also writes that we socialize this vulnerability right out of them because it begins to “sound like gender stereotypes,” as boys reach ages 15 or 16. She continues, “They start using phrases such as ‘no homo’ … and they tell us they don’t have time for their male friends, even though their desire for these relationships remains.”
In short, Dr. Way says the cultural norms and experiences neuter the emotions right out of boys and men. It also confuses them about how to manage their emotions.
Get Out of the “Man-Box”
A recent and rather figurative concept called the “Man-Box” describes the societal restrictions on a man’s emotional expression and suggests it as the primary reason for high rates of violence against women.
Check out a fantastic TED Talk on the topic by Tony Porter who started an organization, A Call to Men that creates awareness of these cultural and social barriers, and coordinates initiatives to help men possess a “healthy manhood” that helps overcome these issues that plague us emotionally.
So what can we do to begin the transformation of our hearts and become more godly men?
The next post will begin to unfurl the “what” we should do to learn how to manage the emotions to become more godly men.