How did your family of origin handle conflict, emotions, and stress? British culture is true to its stereotype – the “stiff upper lip” and “keep calm and carry on” sayings you’ve heard ring true in my personal experience. Handling life and its challenges with poise and perseverance, grace and grit, are the values I inherited.
There’s a lot that’s good about these values. But like anything, they can be taken to an extreme. When grace for another doesn’t overflow from an experience of God’s grace for me it will be shallow, and grit without the discipline of rest will run out of steam.
The work of becoming an emotionally healthy person is hard work and takes intentionality. It’s the work of a lifetime and certainly doesn’t happen overnight. Sabbath practice, respecting your limits, a life-giving prayer life, a vital support network, setting boundaries, choosing to meditate on who and whose you are in Christ. Each habit builds on the next, reminding us that we are not the savior of ourselves; Christ is.
This past couple of years I’ve become increasingly intentional with this aspect of my spirituality. For me, it was urgent and necessary work when I reached the end of myself and had to take a hard look in the mirror. Perhaps you reached that point during Covid too?! It’s been work I’ve needed to do to become a non-anxious presence as a spouse, parent and pastor. Ultimately, it’s given me new levels of freedom to be authentic and new confidence in him. It’s been character-building-work as my life comes closer to the words I preach.
As the book I’ve been studying with a cohort of EPC Pastors across the country says “character trumps competency”*. Competency matters, but without character, all is lost. This might the most important work of all.
Our emotional health is an important but often overlooked part of our spirituality. I’d love to learn from you: what’s one practice that has helped you to become a more emotionally healthy person? Email me.
* Pete Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Zondervan, 2017.