We live in a world that works very hard to avoid pain. One common way we avoid pain is through stuffing our feelings. Stuffing, also known as suppressing our feelings is defined just as it sounds. It is literally pushing feelings down through denial or pretending something doesn’t matter.
What stuffing is not… In the Christian world, often, feelings are stuffed down in the name of “keeping the peace” or “overlooking an offense”. However if that were truly the case, these feelings wouldn’t resurface later.
Stuffing -Packing hurt feelings down only to have them resurface later.
In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. ~Ephesians 4:26
The problem of stuffing…
Those hurts, that have been stuffed down, go unresolved and eventually come out in the form of anger (more on that here) or isolation.
Unresolved hurts create a root of bitterness and a hardened heart. Reconciliation feels hopeless as hurts pile up.
Stuffing leads to unforgiveness-the exact opposite of your purpose as a child of God.
So why do we stuff?
Well, the short answer is that we fear the potential pain that can result from sharing our feelings.
- We fear what others will think about us if we tell them what we think and feel.
- We fear that our feelings will be minimized or invalidated.
- We fear conflict. We don’t want to rock the boat so we settle for stuffing.
Really, all those fears are rooted in our desire to avoid pain. Being vulnerable is required anytime we share our inner thoughts and feelings. But the flip side of vulnerability is intimacy through communication. As we share our true thoughts and feelings we offer ourselves more fully. Avoiding the pain of vulnerability results in missed opportunities for deeper intimacy and connection.
“Avoiding the pain of vulnerability results in missed opportunities for deeper intimacy and connection.”
How do we stop stuffing?
Whenever we take off an old pattern we’re to replace it with a new pattern.
Instead of stuffing, try speaking the truth in love.
Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is Christ. ~Ephesians 4:15
Speaking the truth in love takes courage. Don’t worry…courage is part of your DNA as a child of God!
- Keep it simple. State what you saw, heard, thought or assumed. Then, state how you felt, going deeper than anger (more on that here). Finally, make a simple request of what you’d like to be different next time.
- Hold your desires regarding the outcome loosely. Let go of expectations. Keep your goals set on yourself-unstuffing those feelings. This is about the change you want to make.
- Patterns of stuffing that change to unstuffing can be startling to those who are in a relationship with you. Be patient with yourself and others as you strive to change these patterns.
- Be prayerful. The Holy Spirit is in the “heart changing business”.
As you begin unstuffing, remember to do it in love. Be gentle and kind with your words (more on that here). The ultimate goal is reconciliation so that we can grow and mature as the body of Christ.
Stuffing our feelings is packing hurt feelings down only to have them resurface later as they go unresolved. We stuff because of the fear that’s rooted in our desire to avoid pain. Avoiding the pain of vulnerability results in missed opportunities for deeper intimacy and connection. Stop stuffing and start speaking the truth in love.