Women in particular have been stereotyped as 'hyper' emotional beings; overly sensitive, irrational and super critical. Basically women we are painted as crazed human beings who come undone at the sight of dirty laundry and half-priced shoes. Oh and that we are crazy for chocolate, so crazy that we would maim any person who was a barrier between us and said chocolate.
Men on the other hand tend to receive slightly more admirable characterisations (especially when they are describing themselves). Whilst women epitomize femininity and tenderness, men are typically portrayed as impulsive, strong-willed, decisive, and of course tough (you know the "I don't shed a tear, drink lattes or watch chick flicks" kind of tough).
Whilst some women and men indeed actualize some or many of these 'gender-specific' traits, in reality broad characterisations and generalisations, of both men and women, are completely exaggerated and utterly crude. They are also deeply prejudicial and biased. Why can't women be tough? Sure we can be feminine and cry if we want to, but can't we also be driven and detached?
And men, is it socially acceptable for them to shed a tear without blaming onions or wayward objects blowing in the wind?
Aren't human beings meant to be emotional, irrespective of their age, gender, culture and religion?
When I think about God and his many emotional responses throughout the bible, I see a multi-layered God. He expressed despair, joy, anger, and love. Especially love.
Created…a multitude of emotions
As human beings, we were created in God's image, which means that we were also created to feel and exhibit a multitude of emotions. We are meant to experience joy and love and sorrow and disappointment. We were fashioned to feel things inside of our flesh and bones; we were not designed to be cold or detached beings.
Although I praise and thank God for our capacity to sense and experience emotions, feeling too deeply or too much can certainly hurt especially when we place too much emphasis on what other people think and say about us.
Being emotional is natural, but allowing our emotions to be governed by others is dangerous, not only for our emotional stability and development but also for our sense of self.
Recently I experienced a barrage of comments from people that I allowed to truly dominate how I felt about myself, my capabilities and character. I took these words, which were deeply critical and in many ways careless, and allowed them to take root deep within me. I gave these opinions power and purpose.
Whilst our emotions are largely influenced by the people we interact with and the circumstances that surround us, controlling and owning our own emotions are paramount, particularly if we want to avoid being emotionally hijacked and redirected by those around us.
But guarding our emotional selves is difficult to do on our own, since we were indeed created to be emotional, interactive beings.
So how do we jump off the emotional rollercoaster that is life? Or more appropriately, how do we ride the rollercoaster on our terms?
Life is always going to be filled with moment of great joy and such devastating sorrow. And people are always going to have opinions and thoughts and expectations about us, true or otherwise.
God created us to be so amazingly complicated. We are able to exhibit hundreds of emotional responses, think and dream with endless possibilities. So why allow others to inhibit us, control us, manipulate us, define us, and limit us.
In Colossians chapter 3 it states "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things".
If we set our minds on things above, we are only asking for God's estimation upon us, not mans. We are seeking his approval, his desires, and his purposes. So if we focus on God, then our emotional state should always be secure in him. Our sense of self cannot be shaken (or stirred) because we are assured in him.
Alison Barkley lives in Newcastle and is a post graduate student at Deakin University.
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