The other day I was storming around our house like a bull in a china shop. Everything the kids did annoyed me. I had so many internal quips going it was hard to even keep up with the string of negativity in my head. I was frustrated with the whole world.
Finally I stopped, right in the middle of the living room, and, out loud, asked “What is wrong? Why am I feeling like this?”
Stopping to ask this gave me the space to breath - the distance from my own internal rumblings to gauge the situation and realize I was letting stress from another area of my life color my interactions with my family. It wasn’t the people around me I was frustrated with, I was frustrated at the anxiety I felt about a situation I couldn’t control. And this realization and quiet gave me the opportunity to pray briefly for God’s help in letting go of my anxiety. From there, the day was better.
Curiosity helps us ask the hard questions.
Asking ourselves “What’s wrong?” might seem like an obvious question, but how often do we skip the obvious questions when dealing with ourselves? It’s hard to grow personally without these answers, and yet we don’t seek them out. It’s also hard to grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord if we don’t even know what’s going on inside ourselves.
I have found that stopping to be curious about my own feelings has been a powerful tool in deepening my relationship with Christ, just like in the story above. When I am more clear on what I am feeling and why, I am better able to articulate to our Lord in prayer what it is that I am struggling with and what it is that I am seeking His help with. It’s not because He doesn’t know unless I tell Him, it’s because I don’t know unless I tell him.
Without curiosity, I likely a.) wouldn’t have prayed at all in my agitated state or b.) prayed for everyone to leave me alone indefinitely, neither of which would have helped the situation.
Here are three excellent ways to cultivate curiosity towards your own feelings - good and bad - and open new doors of connection with those around you and our Lord himself.
1. Stop and ask “What is going on here?”
This is what I did in the living room that day, and I didn’t know the answer right away. But stopping to ask the question predisposed me to begin seeking an answer. I combed back over the day in my head, thinking of the things that of happened and how they had made me feel. Eventually I was able to pinpoint an event that had sent me off on my tirade. It was something small but it made me feel very anxious, and it sent me off on a path of frustration until I stopped the cycle by asking why.
2. Develop a writing habit.
What this looks like in your own life is highly personal. Some people like to journal every morning, some every night, some irregularly whenever the fancy strikes them. But I think that it is deeply important to regularly translate words from our head through our hands in writing. Whether you write long hand or on a computer or laptop, the effort of putting words to the things swirling around your head can help you make connections and investigate your own feelings. You may want to treat journaling itself as a prayer, offering your thoughts to God as you think them and write them, or you may want to use journaling as an opportunity to get clear on what’s in your mind for yourself before taking some concentrated time with God to discuss what came up.
3. Talk to the people who know you best.
The people that love you the most typically are not the ones who are hardest on you, although I know there are exceptions. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably hardest on yourself. But, the people that know you and love you best may understand you more than you understand yourself sometimes. There have been many times when I haven’t been clear on the source of my own feelings when my husband has been able to help me gain clarity by pointing out patterns in my behavior that I am not even aware of myself.
A loving outside perspective can be very valuable in recognizing the large broad stroke patterns we fall into, especially when they are played out over long periods of time that may be hard for us to observe all at once in ourselves. Having this conversation with someone that you love is also a wonderful opportunity to embrace vulnerability and choose hope and growth over comfort.
The Gift of Self Awareness
Self-awareness, gained through curiousity, is an excellent tool in the fight against disordered self reliance. Disordered self reliance, unlike an appropriate amount of personal responsibility and desire to maintain oneself healthfully as a person, is based on the idea that we can save ourselves. This is just not the truth.
Self awareness is valuable to combat this because when we truly become aware of our faults, feelings, and triggers our need for God becomes abundantly clear. These are the things that we hold humbly in our hands when we come to God in prayer, offering the worst of ourselves to him that loves our whole selves unconditionally. God wants us to give him our weakness because in doing so we truly surrender to him allowing his strength to shine through.
It can be a lovely thing to be weak. It is so countercultural, but embracing our weakness is one of the most beautiful paths to deeper relationship with God. For myself seeing my own brokenness with unclouded eyes has given me the opportunity to grow in freedom and love for God. Knowing my weakness allows me to feel free because the illusion that my strength should sustain me is gone. It is just clearly impossible. And that realization is a wonderful gift.