‘I really don’t know what’s wrong with me,’ said forty-two-year-old Tyrone to his counselor. ‘I’ve attained many of my personal and business goals. But I’m still breeding ulcers, trying to climb up the ladder. With all my success, I’m still bummed when someone else beats me to a big sale or a new account. I have a wonderful wife and two great kids, but I kind of feel like an outsider when I’m with them. I’m often around people and have lots of friends. But I don’t enjoy it, and I don’t think they’re really enjoying me. I’m afraid my dark moods are distancing me from the ones I love. But I don’t know what to do about it.’
Tyrone looks and acts like the American Dream personified. By all outward appearances he’s succeeded in the areas of life that really matter in our society: family, friends, career, and finance. But like so many men, Tyrone’s warm smile and confident exterior mask a deep sadness and uncertainty. He often wonders what’s really worthwhile in life. Despite all the trophies he’s accumulated indicating he’s a winner, he always feels defeated.
Can you relate to Tyrone? The pursuit of the American Dream has left many feeling alone and angry, because prosperity can’t be measured by money or even family. Who does the Bible teach is prosperous or blessed? Only when you seek to find joy in your Creator and not in His creation, will your soul begin to find significance and true happiness. Stop and assess where you seek your joy.
Tom’s a clerk in a hectic government office. In the midst of all the daily pressures, he’s regarded as one of the most even-tempered workers in the department. He’s quiet and efficient, and he never seems to get riled at anything.
Tom spends his energy herding his emotions because he feels they’re his enemy. Deep inside he believes that his father didn’t like him as a boy because he was too much of a crybaby and a ‘fraidy-cat.’ Since he perceives that he lost his father by being too much of a sissy, Tom isn’t about to expose his emotions as an adult. His controlled emotional detachment also keeps him distant from his wife. In the past, whenever Tom showed any signs of being troubled, angry, or fearful, she’d ask him what was wrong. His usual response was a curt, ‘Nothing!’ So she’s learned not to ask.
Detached men like Tom find it difficult to live out the values they profess because they ignore their heart, which is the center from which values come. Often detached men will become addicted to work, money, football, alcohol, or drugs.
Are you like Tom? Do you stuff your sense of defeat inside, thinking you should be able to ‘take it?’ Are you emotionally frozen? Perhaps you’re so dead inside you have little to give a relationship. Is your spouse enduring a frustrating relationship because you insist on suffering your losses alone?
You can change. Start by connecting with others. Find a safe person that you can talk to. We were meant for connection, not detachment.
Emotions are a funny thing. We all know what they are, but where do they come from? They seem to flow from the core of your being, from deep down inside. And if you’ve developed the pattern of denying or hiding your feelings, you’ll lose the very sense of who you really are—who God created you to be. Don’t believe me? Consider the prophet Jeremiah.
When you read the Old Testament book of Lamentations, which Jeremiah wrote, you’ll see that you have nothing to fear about bringing even your most raw or maybe what you think are embarrassing emotions to God.
Jeremiah was intensely honest in sharing his broken heart with God. But what follows his grief? When Jeremiah finished his grieving, he turned to God to seek forgiveness. The book ends with a question of remorse: ‘Are you angry with us still?’ the prophet asks. Have you ever asked that question? Behind this question is Jeremiah’s humility, coupled with his hope that God will start the process toward reconciliation and forgiveness. Jeremiah knew God’s heart, so he knew that God would forgive. If you truly repent of your sin, you can be sure that God will forgive you too—no matter how great your sins and failures. You need to come humbly before him and place your life in his strong, gentle hands.