Ministry Resources

The Power of Naming our Emotions – 7 Steps

Author: Angela Craig


I could tell when my son walked in the door from school, he was having a bad day. His eyes were downcast to the ground and he barely spoke…until I ask him to help me with a chore and he snapped at me.

I asked: Did something happen at school today?

My son replied: No.

I asked: Was someone mean to you?

My son replied: No.

I said: By the way you are acting, something is obviously wrong. Maybe it would help if you could name the emotions you are feeling.

My son said: Fine, I will name my emotion. My emotion’s name is FRED and FRED is really making me mad today!

We both laughed out loud until FRED felt released from the pressure of the day’s events that had made him mad.

Demond Tutu wrote:

We give voice to our hurts not to be victims or martyrs.

We do so to find freedom from the resentment, anger, shame, or self-loathing that can fester and build inside us when we do not touch our pain and learn to forgive. Often it can seem easier or safer to simply dismiss a hurt, stuff it down, push it away, pretend it didn’t happen, or rationalize it, telling ourselves we really shouldn’t feel the way we do. But a hurt is a hurt. A loss is a loss. When we deny our feelings, we lose some of our aliveness.

Emotions are natural and instinctive. Emotions are not bad. They tell us something important about what is happening in our lives.

If we are grieving, grief shows we truly loved.

If we are hurt, hurt may be telling us we need to be heard or may have unresolved trauma.

If we are anxious, fear may be telling us to adjust our trust meter.

Pretending to be without emotion is to pretend we are not human.

Ecclesiastes 3:1,4,8 (NKJV) describes this,

To everything there is a season; A time for every purpose under heaven…A time to weep, and a time to laugh…A time to mourn, and a time to dance…A time to love, and a time to hate; A time of war, and a time of peace.

Unacknowledged emotions distort the truth and lead us to react instead of respond.

In my son’s case, the hurt he felt from his day led him to snap at me when I asked him to help me with a simple chore.

Our goal is not to hide our emotions. Our goal is to calibrate our emotional compass to respond in a Christ-like way.

Here are seven steps to a healthy emotional response:

1. Identify the emotion:

“Be very careful what you think; your thoughts will run your life.” Proverbs 4:23

2. Identify the cause:

Is it a label?

Is it a lie of the Devil?

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3 (ESV)

Is it a learned pattern of behavior?

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (ESV)

Is it unmet expectations?

“Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose.” Phil 2:2-4 (NLT)

Is it a lack of trust?

“I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him. I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I look to the south, but he is concealed. But he knows where I am going” (Job 23:8-10a NLT, second edition).

TWO easy verses to memorize on trust:

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3

“But I trust in you Lord. I say: “I put my trust in you.” Psalm

3. Confess

“For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:22-23 (NIV)

Prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23 (NLT)

4. LET JESUS write you a new label

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

5. LET JESUS Settle the score

“Never pay back evil for evil. …never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it.” Romans 12:17 + 19 (LB)

“Forgiveness doesn’t diminish justice; It just entrusts it to God!”
A powerful quote by Max Lucado

6. LET JESUS Sooth your wounds

“God heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 (NCV)

7. LET JESUS Satisfy all your needs and overflow your cup

“You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” Psalm 145:16 (NIV)
“God will help you overflow with hope in him through the Holy Spirit’s power within you.” Romans 15:13 (LB)

“May the Lord make your love to grow and overflow…” 1 Thessalonians 3:12 (LB)

“Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and your cup of joy will overflow.” John 16:24 (LB)

(Excerpt from M.C. Wright Sermon Notes on Psalms)

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