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Forbidden Emotions for Christians

I went to a Christian college while I was also dealing with intense pain. I won’t go into the details, but to just name the topics, I struggled with depression, loneliness, self-hatred, fear, and despair all four years of my time at college. Some days, I felt like I was up to my neck in deep water, thrashing about in exhaustion; the only thing keeping me from drowning was God’s grace and mercy.

One would think that going to a Christian school might be beneficial to help deal with this sort of thing. Let me tell you, I never felt so judged as I did for showing these kinds of emotions than I did while living among Christian peers at a Christian school.

Let me take you through several lessons I learned about negative emotions while living with so many Christians.

1. As a Christian, it is not okay to be sad or depressed.

Sitting at a table in the cafeteria, people liked to talk about silly things like movies and random food. So if I was only a little honest about what was really going on in my personal life, people froze up. I can’t tell you the moments of blank stares or embarrassed shrugs of the shoulders if I mentioned words like “sadness,”  “depression,” or even simple things like “a really bad day.”

Just two or three times, I couldn’t hold it in and cried during chapel services. Most often, when this happened, people didn’t even say anything. They just looked awkwardly in the other direction or talked to everyone around me.

2. As a Christian, it is not okay to be angry.

I went to counseling for two years in college. While there, God was dealing with many unhealthy patterns in my life and healing me from deep wounds of the past, wounds that were given to me by other people.

This was the first time I was filled with this anger about these wounds; people had done things that were wrong and selfish, causing me deep pain. I experienced what I can only describe as billows of anger that washed over me every couple of days. As this happened, I tried communicating it to several people around me. I was often greeted with hostility. “You’re over-reacting,” these people told me. “This isn’t really a big deal.”  So I felt ashamed for feeling anger.

3. As a result of all of this, I began to think that as a Christian, it is not really okay to feel much of anything negative

During my last year at college, I began trying to shut off feeling entirely. I was afraid to feel—and to especially express any type of feeling in front of people—because it so often brought judgment from Christians around me.

I began to think God might leave me or He might get tired of me or judge me for my human weaknesses. When people asked me how I was, I said, “I’m doing great!” Even if I felt completely and utterly dead inside. Yet I smiled a lot more, and people at least liked me a lot better for it.

But by God’s mercy, He doesn’t leave us to figure emotions out by ourselves. In fact, during my time at college, God taught me some wonderful things about these emotions.

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terynobrien@churchleaders.com'
Teryn O’Brien graduated from Moody Bible Institute and works in marketing with various imprints of Random House, LLC. She spends her free time roaming the mountains of Colorado, writing a series of novels, and combating sex trafficking. She's of Irish descent, which is probably where she gets her warrior spirit of fighting for the broken, the hurting, the underdog. Follow her on Twitter @TerynOBrien or connect with her on Facebook (TerynOBrienWriter).