Embracing Opposing Emotions

Hello Bravehearted Beauties! How’s your heart on this mid-February Sunday? Are you feeling a Valentine’s high…a Valentine’s low? Or maybe it’s hard to say because you’re feeling the tension of two very different emotions at once? If that’s the case, you’re in a deeply good place. Stay there for a minute and see if you can allow opposing emotions to share space in your heart. It’s hard to do, but I think there’s a gift for us in this place of tension.


What if embracing opposing emotions leads to a more abundant life?

Would you risk it?

I used to think the goal in life was to embrace the “good” emotions and avoid the “bad” ones. I never imagined you could hold both in your heart at once, much less feel more alive doing it. {Sounds crazy just saying it!} The reality is, this world is full of inevitable tension: beauty and brokenness, joy and pain, failure and success…the list goes on and on. And the truth is, it’s all good if it produces a more whole, healed heart in us. Though it doesn’t always feel good at the time. Feeling things deeply can really hurt.

But here’s the crazy thing that happens as you learn to let the “low” feelings rise up and mingle with the “high” ones: you begin to experience life on a whole new level. At first it feels out of control, unstable and uncomfortable, but then you start tasting the fruit of it, and you can’t possibly go back to your old ways. As you learn to hold opposing emotions, your heart’s capacity enlarges so that you can feel things more deeply, love people more freely, and enjoy life more fully. And while it may hurt at times, I promise it’s worth it! That’s a shocker coming from a girl who once prided herself on being emotionally “even keel.”


I’ll be honest, there are days I wish I could be more even keel…just so I could avoid feeling the deep ache that comes with living on this side of heaven. But do you know what being emotionally even keel means? It means you get to keep yourself “safe,” but you miss out on deep joy and abundant life. Yes, you can still experience lots of goodness, but not at the depths God intended. Being emotionally even keel also means you might get to keep sadness, pain and depression at bay or at least hidden beneath the surface, but you miss out on feeling deeply delighted in, deeply celebrated, deeply enjoyed and deeply loved…by God and by others.

For me, being emotionally even keel meant I rarely cried or acknowledged my pain, but it also meant I wasn’t a safe place for others in their pain. Looking back, I can see that I was living life from a distance…and keeping others at a distance, too. Oh, I longed for close friendships and deep intimacy, but I had no idea how to risk my heart enough to give or receive the things I really wanted in relationship. And on the few occasions when I risked my heart, it hurt too much for my even keel heart to bear.


There are pieces of my story {and yours} that explain why remaining emotionally even keel was the safest place for a time. It provided self-protection from life’s hurts. Embracing opposing emotions wasn’t an option for an even keel girl. And that’s okay. Today, I can look back at the girl who kept her emotions in check and her heart guarded and feel compassion toward her. Tenderness has taken the place of harsh judgement and self-contempt. And today, when I see a woman trying hard to keep her life on an even keel, all it takes for me to feel tender toward her is to remember…I know how it feels. Empathy is a powerful thing. {Watch this clever animation featuring Brené Brown to see what I mean.}

Today, I’m learning to embrace the full spectrum of emotions…usually more than one at a time and often in tension with each other. And Lord knows, there’ve been lots of opportunities to do that in the last two and half years! {Our big move cracked me wide open, and farm life has caused every kind of opposing emotion to surface.} Today, I rejoice in the fact that a few years of salty tears have eroded my wall of self-protection. And yes, I’m tempted to put a new brick up every now and then, but it doesn’t stay there very long before the next flood of tears, or the next discovery of beauty in brokenness, dissolves the once rigid and inflexible mortar around my heart.


And would you believe that I’ve gone from one who was afraid to cry, who prided herself in not crying, to one who loves to sit with people in their tears? I no longer fear tears; I welcome them as a doorway to a more whole and healed heart. Only broken, hurting things can be healed. And only cracked open places can let love flow down into the depths.

And the vulnerability that comes through tears? It’s a holy, sacred space that creates intimacy and connection like no other. If a friend cries in my presence, I consider it a privilege to sit with her in that place…to honor her tears, her story, her beautifully exposed heart. Because I’m no longer afraid of my own pain, I can be present with others in theirs. That feels like a real gift.


I just keep surprising myself. And maybe that’s what letting go of an even keel life is all about! Even this post is a surprise. It’s not what I expected to write today…not that I knew what I was going to write when I sat down. Usually, I just start writing and see what comes of it. I hope that giving you a glimpse into what embracing opposing emotions has looked like for me will encourage you as you tiptoe, stumble, dance or run in that direction.

Deep down, I’ve often had this burning question when it comes to hard things: what’s the point? I used to hate that I had that question, but today, I think it’s a good one. What’s the point of learning to embrace opposing emotions and to feel things more deeply, especially when we know it will hurt at times? MORE LIFE. More of what we were created to enjoy. More of the John 10:10 promise! {That post is an oldie but a goodie; sometimes I forget how long I’ve been writing this way.}


Here’s what I want you to know today: I’m with you, Bravehearted Beauties! You’re not on this emotional roller coaster called life all alone. We get to be on this ride together.

So how about we throw our hands up and say YES to more life today?!?! Even if it feels crazy and out of control? We can squeeze each other’s hands as we lift them up and squeal or scream or laugh or cry our way through this wild ride.

Saying YES TO LIFE with you,

Linsey signature 100pix


Back to TopEMAILPOSTFacebookPOSTSubscribe