Initiation Into Feelings -- Then What?

In initiatory men’s work, we are initiating men into a number of things, including a new awareness of their feelings. And we often forget that this is just a beginning.

We are “igniting Christ-like change” by helping men be more aware of their feelings as Jesus was. And we often forget that awareness is an “igniting,” a beginning.

Newly aware of our feelings, what do we do with them?

Coming away with a new belief that his anger was acceptable, Mike was describing his new, angry demands of his wife. And I cringed. In the months after Bill’s initial weekend, I kept hearing stories about him voicing his anger with one colleague after another. Bill’s senior pastor came to me concerned about how this once gentle man was angrily cornering his colleagues.

Initiation opens men (and women) up to their feelings, perhaps in a deeper way than ever before. Sinking into our feelings is work in the lover quarter, connecting with our insides. But then what do we do with each feeling?

On a Sabbath, Jesus was in the synagogue, noticing a man with a deformed hand and religious leaders. Likely feeling tender, Jesus called that man forward and asked the Pharisees if it were lawful to heal on the Sabbath. They were silent, and Jesus felt anger and grief at their callousness. Angry and grieving, Jesus healed the man’s hand. Jesus felt and acted.

After Lazarus died, Jesus arrived and visited with Lazarus’ sister Mary, who was weeping. Jesus was deeply troubled — He came to act for God’s glory. But first, Jesus weeps. Likely feeling sad for their loss, Jesus slowed down and took time to grieve the pain of death. Jesus felt sad and acted.

Likely feeling anger at death, Jesus then approached the tomb and used his power to call his friend out of death. Jesus felt anger and used his power for good.

Shortly after leaving my long-time pastoral work in Illinois and moving to Colorado, I noticed days of feeling slow and heavy. I realized I was feeling sad. After another day of low energy, I put my house projects on hold one morning and sat and listed all of my recent losses. Slowing down and feeling my sadness restored my energy. I felt and acted.

Several years ago in my work as a hospital chaplain, I was struggling under a critical, demanding, unfair boss. I was constantly angry. After sitting in my anger for several weeks, I started to ponder how I might use my power. When he was unyielding on his demand that chaplains work the overnight hours without pay, I went to HR and got his decision overturned. I felt anger and acted.

Every feeling suggests a corresponding action and we discern this action by musing about the good thing we want (sovereign quarter) and by seeking perspective on how to get this (sage quarter).

  • Sadness is about a loss that needs to be grieved.
  • Fear is about a real or perceived threat that suggests we either get protection or reassurance.
  • Anger is about a blocked want that suggests taking steps to achieve this want, if possible, or an injustice that suggests corrective action.
  • Happiness invites us to stay the coarse.
  • Tenderness suggests connection with myself or someone else.

Feeling anger with my wife doesn’t suggest angry demands of her but maybe clear requests. Fear doesn’t mean I don’t take that new job but that I get reassurance needed or some protective measure in place.

When leaders tried to trap Jesus with a woman they caught in adultery, His first move was bending down and writing in the ground, maybe to notice his feelings, maybe fear, anger or tenderness. Jesus kept writing, likely to discern the wise way to act and then did so.

Initiated men and women feel their feelings, and then, like Jesus they slow down and ponder how to act. In ways that both love themselves and the people around them.  

By John Casey

John completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2005, is a graduate of our two-year transformational program and is a weekend leader for The Crucible Project. He enjoys writing about authentic living for men. As a senior pastor for 32 years, he has written and preached hundreds of sermons on God’s character and mission, our purpose and mission, spiritual transformation and effective relationships.

Photo Credit: Tyler Byber via Creative Commons