Harboring an emotion, we cling to it. Instead of seizing its energy to face a challenge, we bog down. Rather than using the arousal to confront a threat, we mull it over. A harbored emotion becomes chronic, corroding our insides and spoiling our relationships with others.
— Evelyn Eaton Whitehead & James D. Whitehead in Shadows of the Heart: A Spirituality of the Painful Emotions
This is what I have done. For reasons that seemed logical to me at the time, I harbored emotions; and in spite of what I thought were efforts to expel them in healthy ways, these emotions remained bottled up. Why? Because I didn’t express them to those that mattered. And in its wake it has hurt others and crushed my spirit. I thank God that at the moment I am not anyone’s spiritual director, as I haven’t been in a state to be fully present with others.
Finally the harbored thoughts and feelings—however true or warped they may have been—have found their way out. Unfortunately, I chose the path of explosive emotion, rather than honest confrontation. Rage seeped into my body, a complex knot of the entirety of my life’s frustrations turned sour. This is beyond anger and leads to door slamming, pounding the cupboards, and throwing of objects. Instead of saying what I really needed to say, I tucked that way, allowing it to become buried under a pile of my own depressive thoughts. The kind of thoughts and emotion that although have a grain of truth, become mulled over too much to the point where absolutes strike (e.g. “No one will ever love you”).
Life goes on. I’m trying to renew and seek reconciliation and absolution, freeing the harbored emotions. This morning, as I write and sip my coffee I take a few deep breaths…to appreciate the day (Friday!), and to give thanks for community and human relationality, expressions of God’s presence among us. I know that I am forgiven, washed clean. I know that I am loved.
Psalm 51:1-12 (NRSV)
1Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgement.
5Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.
6You desire truth in the inward being;*
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right* spirit within me.
11Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing* spirit.