By Dwight Bain
The Big Tree burned up a few weeks ago and I’m still sad. A mysterious fire brought down of one of the world’s oldest cypress trees, estimated to be 3,500 years old. The 118-foot-tall bald cypress was the fifth largest tree in the world… but it’s gone now. The fire investigators believe that a fire was sparked in a hollow part of the tree, so it slowly burned up from the inside out. By the time fire fighters were called to save one of the oldest trees in North America – it was too late.
Hearing the news of a landmark I first visited as a child made me feel sad, but it also reminded me of how often people do the same thing. Think about it for a minute. How many times do you see someone who has a great career, but then they self-destruct from the inside-out. Dr. David Uth describes it this way, “You never see the fall in a person’s life – you only see the crash.” Because we can’t see what is burning in people’s lives there is a tendency to believe they are doing well when in fact there are two dangerous emotional reactions we need to be aware of… emotions that can destroy everything good.
Burning up –
This dangerous behavior is easy to spot. Someone is angry, moody and irritable all the time. When someone is burning up with emotion they need a healthy way to vent, so these toxic emotions don’t get dumped on the people they love the most.
Burning in –
This is the slow-burn, like the one that destroyed the Big Tree. Resentment, bitterness or revenge are common emotions that slowly burn inside of a person, and eventually can destroy them and the relationships they cherish at home, or work.
So how can you manage these intense emotions without destroying yourself- or others? A better approach is to remember the words of King David in Psalm 34…”This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him and delivered him from all his fears.” When you learn to voice the emotional pressure you feel, it can be pointed toward productive behavior, and can bring much good. (Much like a fire in a fireplace can warm, comfort and soothe a person.) How can you express emotions without dumping a “Fire” onto others?
1. Pray it-
Taking your fears, frustrations, anger and hurt directly to God is the single best way to manage major emotions. Little children learn to take their burdens to God, so they don’t have to carry them alone. As adults we can do the same thing.
2. Write it-
Expressing painful emotions on paper is a simple way to relieve pressure. The odd thing is that it’s so simple most people won’t take time to do it. When you take a pen and paper and just vent out the frustrations you now can actually ‘see’ more of the problem, so it’s easier to sort through your options and find a solution.
3. Talk it-
Finding a trusted friend, pastor or counselor to talk through issues is another positive way to manage major emotions. It’s also a safe way to sort through the best way to respond to protect the relationship- instead of letting pressure build up that will ultimately destroy it.
4. Read it-
To spend time in God’s word studying the biblical response to managing emotions is another positive way to sort through the normal emotional pressures we all feel. Small children can learn from simple stories that show how to deal with others, (like “Veggie Tales), and adults can benefit from the insights of popular authors who focus on counseling themes. Reading to gain new skills is another way to seek out new options to manage major emotions. Remember – you always have options.
Do you see the difference? To let pressure build up inside can lead to the dangerous situation of a tiny spark igniting a major fire of emotion. Wisdom is to keep the risk of internal fires away by spending time in healthy skill development, instead of continually being at risk for a major burn.
The relationships in your life are important… protect them by keeping the risk of fire away. Every step you take and every skill you develop will protect the beauty of God’s design for you, and those you care about.
About the author: Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified Life Coach in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. He partners with the media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference in our culture. Access more counseling and coaching resources designed to save you time by solving stressful situations by visiting his life management blog with over 400 complimentary articles and special reports at www.LifeWorksGroup.org