All my life, I feel I’ve been taught how to think.
There is a right way to think, a logical way to think, an efficient or true or noble way to think.
And the thinking goes that emotion is the “enemy” of thought. Emotions are not rational or logical. They cloud our judgment, make us do crazy things, override our better instincts. We marginalize people who are “too emotional.” We are embarrassed by public displays of emotion, as if feelings were something which we should have evolved out of by now.
I’ve always been kind of a stoic, guarded my feelings a bit, held them tightly to my chest. Sometimes, I don’t even know how to express my emotions.
My short time in Africa has been an outpouring of emotion, sometimes so large I do not know what to do with it.
Today, I saw a great man nearly overcome with emotion as he told a story that is over a decade in the making, how twenty-four year old Moses was kidnapped and made a child soldier at age eleven. Today, he will soon graduate from Gulu University with a degree in business management and development.
Today, I saw a young woman, Katie in a beautiful blue dress drop to her knees, completely without shame or embarrassment as she praised God, thanked World Help and told her story of redemption. She told us she had been a nobody, and now she has a future. She repeated “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” She stunned everyone.
Everywhere I have gone, I have seen people positively beaming with pride over what has been accomplished, how their lives have changed. There is plenty of hope to go around in this place.
It’s a bit much for a guy who has a hard time with feelings.
And as I watched these outpourings of emotion, forcing myself to not avert my eyes, I silently grieved all of the innumerable times my heart has not been moved, not been broken. Time and time again my heart has stayed hard, firm, undamaged. I lamented all of the times I have willingly averted my eyes, or held back the tears or walked away. I wished I could go back and say all the words my heart had wanted to say, but my mouth had failed to express. I regretted every time I had turned to a keyboard to express myself in public, though I could not tell the people whom I love most how I feel about them. I realized that there was nothing wrong with all of the people who freely show such unbounded emotions, however shameless, however stunning it is.
There is something desperately wrong with me.
Yes, emotions make us do crazy things. They make us go to the ends of the earth for people. Emotions make us love when our brains tell us it does not make sense. Our hearts say “Yes” while our brains ask “How much will it cost?”
But as much as our logical, rational brains can solve problems, they truly are inadequate to express the deepest language of humanity.
We will not change the world with our thoughts, however well-intentioned they are. We will not change the world with hearts that never break and minds that never prompt our hands to get dirty. We will only change the world with our love, fully expressed.