This is an excerpt from All the Feels: Discover Why Emotions Are (Mostly) Awesome and How to Untangle Them When They’re Not by Elizabeth Laing Thompson.
I still remember the first time I read the phrase “all the feels.” I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, reading comments on a tearjerker of a poem. A friend had written, “All the feels,” with a series of emojis: laughing, crying, laugh-crying. My heart gave a little hiccup, and I laughed to myself. All the feels? Welcome to my world.
Maybe, like me, you are a big feeler. A sensitive soul, you live with all the deep feelings all the time. You are captivated by beauty, devastated by loss. The first to love, the last to leave. When you dive deep (and you always dive deep), you may struggle to swim back to the surface. You live in emotional high-definition, noticing—and mourning—the ugly things of life, seeing—and savoring—every gorgeous detail in the beautiful. For as long as you can remember, you’ve sought to make peace with your powerful feelings, and you long for God to help you sort out your emotional life.
Or maybe you consider yourself a steady feeler: some mood swings here and there, but most days you stay steady as she goes and avoid major melodrama. But sometimes. Sometimes life grows stormy, faith gets thorny, feelings become unruly—and you need guidance. You wonder how to marry faith and feelings: how to honor God when strong feelings come knocking, how to submit wayward feelings to his ways.
Or maybe you prefer thinking to feeling, and even picking up a book with the word feel in the title is already making you twitchy . . . but people keep urging you to “get in touch with your feelings” (go ahead, insert your grunt of protest here), so you’re reading even though you’re kind of in pain. As a reluctant feeler, you’re here to better acquaint yourself with your emotional side—we’re talking handshakes, not hugs—and figure out what role feelings should play in your life, especially your spiritual life. Big feelers, steady feelers, reluctant feelers—we’ve all got feelings. And no matter how intensely or how often we experience strong feelings, our emotional life is a huge part—a defining part—of our Christian walk.
First things first. What are our gifts? How do the different types of feelers reflect the heart of God in this world? Before we dive in, let’s acknowledge a difficulty that seems to especially plague those of us who fall on the more sensitive side of the feelings spectrum: we may struggle when it comes to self-analysis. We can readily see where others are gifted, how others should serve, where others are best utilized and fulfilled. But when it comes to assessing ourselves? Deep feelers can be self-blind. We may view our sensitivity as a hindrance, a weakness, a problem to wrestle into submission. In our own view, our weaknesses loom large and hideous; our strengths shrink ever smaller. Even our gifts seem to have less oomph, less punch, less pizzazz. Why? Because many of our greatest gifts are inner strengths, invisible to the wide world.
No one can see us sitting there offering all that beautiful empathy, instinctively understanding what someone else feels and needs. No one can hear us thinking all these insightful thoughts. No one can see the joy flooding through us as we walk along the sidewalk, awed by a cloud-smeared sky. All they see is a space cadet who won’t look where she’s going and keeps tripping over bumps in the sidewalk.
Many of the sensitive soul’s most valuable gifts—compassion, insight, instinct, a knack for listening—won’t chart so well on a résumé. And yet these are some of the most impressive assets we have to offer to a school, a church, a family, a team, a workplace. Invaluable as these traits are, they are quiet. Unobtrusive. Subtle.
We’re going to take off the blinders and look for all the feeling types’ gifts—including our own—and I implore you, please don’t run away from this part of the conversation. Don’t try to deflect attention to someone else. It’s just you and this book, and it’s okay to look inward for a few moments. It’s okay—indeed, it’s right—to give God glory by recognizing and then using the gifts he has invested in you. So what unique contributions do the different types of feelers bring to the world, and where do you fit in?
What Reluctant Feelers Have to Offer
1. Reluctant feelers help people through hardship. They are safe harbors in storms. Providers and protectors.
2. Reluctant feelers help to preserve justice. They are fair-minded listeners, defenders of truth.
3. Reluctant feelers help people solve problems. They are fact sifters, solution finders, crisis managers.
4. Reluctant feelers help more emotional people preserve their relationships. They are peacemakers, guides, leaders.
What Steady Feelers Have to Offer
1. Steady feelers help other people manage their feelings.They are shoulders to cry on, compassionate confidants.
2. Steady feelers are able to multitask emotionally. They are many-hat-wearing adapters.
3. Steady feelers help people feel understood while actively meeting their needs. They are compassionate and capable caretakers.
4. Steady feelers motivate people. They are inspiring and forward moving.
What Big Feelers Have to Offer
1. Big feelers help people notice. They are eyes and ears. Receptors and recorders.
They don’t just see; they notice. Details do not escape their eyes; small things do not escape their hearts. Their gifts of observation mean they may find the wonder in the ordinary or discern the problem in a plan.
2. Big feelers help people understand. They are translators.
Their empathy and insight allow them to help people who are less observant or emotional to consider the perspective of others who baffle them. What a gift they can be to a minister, a boss, a coworker, a friend, or a parent who has a child they don’t understand!
3. Big feelers help people appreciate. They are encouragers.
4. Big feelers help people celebrate. They are tasters, savorers, connoisseurs of joy.
5. Big feelers model vulnerability. They are soul sharers.
6. Big feelers feel—and demonstrate—love. They are givers.
7. Big feelers offer insight. They are sages.
Pair acute observation with deep thinking, and you’ve got the gift of insight. Wisdom. The gift of interpreting what we see.
Whether you have a sensitive soul with more feelings than you know how to name (much less process), a steady flow of emotions somewhere in the middle, or a logic-minded personality occasionally waylaid by feelings you need help interpreting, we’ve all got emotions. And we all need to learn how to identify, express, experience, and—yes, sometimes wrangle—our feelings.
It took me ages to realize that as Christians, we can lead our feelings instead of having our feelings always lead us. It took me forever to understand that emotions can be a defining part of who we are, but that each day’s emotions don’t have to define that day. And what a revelation it was when I realized that my emotional nature—and yours, too, whether you have all the feels, some of the feels, or reluctant feels—is from God.
All the Feels by Elizabeth Laing Thompson
And we’ve all got to figure out what to do with them. But wait—can we do anything about our emotions? Can we learn how to identify, express, experience—and yes, sometimes wrangle—our feelings in order to live a vibrant, healthy, fruitful life for Jesus?
In All the Feels, author Elizabeth Laing Thompson uses her experiences as a big feeler to encourage and equip different kinds of feelers with the biblical perspectives, practical tools, and scriptural reservoir they need. As a woman who has lived every day of her life having All The Big Feelings All The Day Long, Elizabeth knows what it’s like to live life through our emotions—and how important it is to understand, take control of, and grow from those emotions. Get ready to throw open the doors of your heart, bringing God to your emotions and your emotions to God—the One who invented feelings and who always welcomes yours