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Your Feelings Are Valid. Now What Do We Do with Them?By Addie Tyler
Sadness. Shock. Joy. Fear. Exhaustion. Grief. Peace. Love. Relief.
This past week has been FULL of feelings.
Last Tuesday, Election Day, has caused anxiety for many of us. Regardless of who you vote for, a lot is held up in our elections. Elections are not just about our candidate winning; they are about seeing our identities, values, and concerns represented by an elected official. We each go to our polling location (or mailbox, as the case was for many) with feelings swirling in our minds, spirits, and bodies. A lot is at stake in those little bubbles we fill in!
What emotions were you holding as you cast your vote? What feelings came up as you talked or gathered with loved ones on the days preceding and following Election Day?
At the seminary, we had a vigil on Election Day. We had an opportunity to pray together, to share space, and to experience the love of community. I felt both division and unity in my body. I felt fear and anger around the rampant racism in our country. I felt sadness and grief for the many lives lost from COVID-19. I felt anxious about what the days and weeks ahead might hold. I felt the tension that comes with relationship across difference. I felt love and unity in my community. And I so desperately wanted to hug my friends and classmates as we all felt a whirlwind of emotions.
If you spend time with me, it will not take long for me to remind you that your feelings are valid. Your feelings are an indication of all that is happening in and around you. Sometimes they are confusing and challenging, but they are still valid. Emotions are not good or bad; they cannot truly be categorized so simply. Feelings are for feeling and for learning from.
Whatever you are feeling right now is valid. Your experience is valid. The emotions your experience elicits are valid.
What we do with our emotions is the next step, and it is a really important place for prayer and discernment. I am going to be completely honest with you and say that the feelings I had on Election Day have not changed much. We have elected our next president. We are still divided as a country. The pandemic is still here. Racism is still a strong force in our communities and systems. I still don’t know exactly what comes next. And all of that makes me have feelings! More feelings.
So first, I am going to take the time to sit with my feelings. I will light a candle and relax with a cup of tea. Or I will go for a walk. Or I will phone a friend. I will sit with my Bible. Or read, write, sing, paint, and draw my prayers. Or I will cook a pot of nourishing soup. All of these give me space to feel my feelings fully, to see them, to name them, and to wonder what is causing them.
Let’s look at an example of how our feelings might turn to action.
This summer, like many of us, I was feeling despair and anger around the racialized violence that is so present in our nation. I sat with my feelings and saw that I had work to do. My despair reminded me that hope and love take action and movement. My anger reminded me of the urgency. We have a tremendous need for racial healing.
I took each of these feelings and used them as motivation for change. I worked with a group at the seminary as we read Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad. Together, we worked through the content of the book and journal prompts that helped us to dig deeper into our internalized white supremacy. It was hard work! And the work continues. I have a lot to deconstruct in myself and in my relationships. This internal work has helped me to interrogate my thoughts and actions and to see more clearly the injustices of our world, including those I am complicit in.
Secondly, I began volunteering with a food pantry. I needed to do something active, but I did not feel called to protest in that moment. The food pantry delivers groceries, including fresh organic produce, to immunocompromised folks and those at higher risk of developing COVID-19. While they do not exclusively serve Black, indigenous, and people of color, we know that Black and Brown people are affected by COVID in disproportionate ways. My despair turned to action as I found a way to spread hope and love in my community.
Our feelings tell us something. They tell us about our environment. They communicate something about our present moment, and with prayer and reflection, can motivate action as well.
The feelings I have around our election season remind me that the work is never over. Electing someone to public office does not and will never solve all of our problems. We still as people, and more critically as Christians, have work to do. Whatever you are feeling right now, take time to reflect, to discern, and to act. In prayer, and with God’s help, we will make the world more just, more loving, and more peaceful.
What are you feeling? What is causing these feelings? What are you learning about your environment and about your yourself through those feelings? About God? What are you praying for? What action might you take to seek healing in our world?
This fall, the Sowing Holy Questions blog will focus on issues of racial healing. Writers will reflect on what has been done, what change ought to happen, and offer visions for healing in our communities.
Addie Tyler is a senior Masters of Divinity student at the Seminary of the Southwest. She is sponsored by St. Martin in the Fields in the Diocese of Atlanta. Addie spends her time cooking, crafting, and creating. She is passionate about writing prayers, which she often does by talking to herself on long walks. With joy, laughter, and love, she works to discover God anew each day, even in the smallest details of creation.
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