Kelsey Hart’s homily at Church of the Holy Family on April 30th resonated deeply, especially her observation that after his death, Jesus’s disciples’ feelings must have been “all over the place.” I’ve spend a lot of time with emotions all over the place. Yet I’ve been able to befriend my emotions and even to learn from them. I’ve begun to treat them like a sixth sense. After sight, taste, smell, hearing, and touch, I’ve added my emotions—the content of my own inner experience.
My mental map of this inner territory includes four primary emotions: happiness and sadness, anger and fear. See if these experiences resonate. Happiness is light and sadness is heavy. Happiness accompanies friendships and reunions, visions and accomplishments. Sadness accompanies death, leaving friends, losing a pet, or getting a low grade or evaluation. Anger accompanies a trespass or violation, an unjustified criticism or an avoidable mistake. Fear accompanies danger, risk, walking a tightrope in business or friendship, even the prospect of loss.
Emotions are like guardian angels—they are messengers with information to share for our wellbeing. Fear warns of danger, anger suggests an injustice, sadness alerts us to loss, and joy announces the gift of grace. It’s no wonder that the symbol of the cross has resonated over the centuries. It’s surely the perfect image of the full human experience: the horizontal line, the contingency of fear and anger; the vertical line, the cycle of sadness and joy.
Over the next four weeks I’ll write more about joy, sadness, fear, and anger and take you on a journey that leads, without fail, to the choice to embrace the gift of grace.