This is not the kind of book I normally read, but it was given to me by a friend I respect, so I thought I should look at it. At first I had trouble feeling comfortable with what I was reading. The book was written by Chip Dodd, a veteran Christian psychologist in Nashville, and it came highly recommended by the likes of evangelist Franklin Graham and psychologist Dan Allender, author of The Wounded Heart.
My skepticism was only enhanced when I realized the author was challenging me to listen to my heart. I reacted to this because I know my own heart, and it isn’t always pretty. In addition, I remembered that Jeremiah clearly declared, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9.) Why would I want to listen to something wicked that might even deceive me?
However, I knew I had to keep reading the inspired prophet. In Jeremiah 33:31-33 he wrote of the new covenant: “Behold the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:31-33.)
This well-known passage reminded me of Ezekiel 36:26. “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
So, realizing that I am living under the new covenant with a new heart, given to me by the Lord when I was reborn, I knew I should give the book a try. As a result I ended up finding some very helpful insights for living the kind of life God designed me to live.
Author Chip Dodd, believes that there are eight basic feelings: hurt, loneliness, sadness, anger, fear, shame, guilt, and gladness. God has given us these feelings as tools to enable us to “live fully in a tragic place, where wonder and tragedy, great loves and great losses, intermingle.”
Of course, there are dozens of “other conditions of the heart”, but Dodd thinks all of them can be encompassed under one of the eight basic feelings. In addition, he believes that all eight feelings are good. I would prefer saying that all eight can be good if we allow God to do His intended work through them:
- Hurt can lead us to healing, but when impaired it becomes resentment.
- Loneliness can move us to intimacy, but improperly dealt with it can lead to apathy.
- Sadness expresses value and honor and can lead us to acceptance, but toxic sadness becomes self-pity.
- Anger, the right kind of anger, is passion, like Jesus had, but improper anger brings pride and depression and can cause a multitude of problems for those around us.
- Fear leads us to wisdom and faith; on the other hand, if we don’t respond properly to fear, it can bring anxiety.
- Shame can cause us to become humble and empathetic of others in their weakness, but toxic shame can lead us to self-contempt.
- Guilt in the biblical sense can bring about freedom and forgiveness, but unresolved guilt leads to shamelessness.
- Gladness, true gladness, is joy mixed with sadness; whereas impaired gladness may lead to sensuality.
From THE VOICE OF THE HEART: A Call to Full Living I learned that I should acknowledge my feelings, not try to hide or deny them as I sometimes do. I need to bring them openly to God and to the appropriate people around me.
When reading about SADNESS, I was reminded of my father’s death when he was only 51 years old, and I was in college. Unfortunately, I didn’t take time to grieve. I just went on with my life as a college student. However, six months after his death I fell into a funk that only God was able to bring me out of. How much better would it have been if I had really mourned my dad’s death and shared my grief with confidants and, of course, with the Lord!
As I read about FEAR, I remembered there have been times when I was genuinely fearful; this led me to thank God that my fear awakened me to danger, and occasionally it kept me from going any further in a particular harmful direction. Author Chip Dodd writes, “By listening to our fear, we recognize our value and prepare to prevent harm to ourselves and others.”
I will close with a final example about the feeling of GUILT. It comes from the writer’s own life:
When I look into the face of my wife knowing that I have said something that scorched her heart, I can see her pain, feel my guilt, and take responsibility for what I have done, regardless of the ‘big explanation’ about my behavior. When I recognize her pain, I also see and understand the depth of harm that I can do, and this harm is against the one I am committed to desire and nurture as a sacred trust. … By listening to the voice of my heart I become vulnerable to forgiveness and my desire to change. It is through vulnerability with others and desiring to change that relationship can be reconciled, even restored.