Emotional baggage is usually the term we use for unresolved negative issues of an emotional nature. We all have emotional baggage. But some are heavier than others. Most of the time, we are not even aware of how much we are carrying.
“We all lug loads we were never intended to carry: fear, worry, discontent, bitterness, guilt, pride, self-reliance. No wonder we get so weary.” – Max Lucado
Whether we like it or not, we usually judge new relationships through past lenses. So the more we know what we are carrying, the more equipped we can be to deal with circumstances that arise in any relationship.
1. Identify your emotional baggage.
I think the first step is to be honest with yourself. What triggers you emotionally? Are you anxious most of the time? Do you feel sad frequently? Are you mostly angry, always looking for a fight?
Without emotional baggage, normal upsets are usually resolved quickly. But when we have emotional baggage that interferes with our everyday functions, it can be harmful to our psychological well-being. Unresolved issues can also show up as behaviors such as spending too much money, drinking or eating too much, road rage, and outbursts of tears or anger.
2. Understand your emotional baggage.
Fear and Worry
Fear and worry are usually the result of not being in control. But if we learn to lean into the hands that formed us in the womb, we will learn to let go of fear and hold on to God’s hand.
“I don’t know what the future may hold, but I know who holds the future.” – Ralph Abernathy
Discontentment usually occurs when we miss our gifts and blessings and compare our life to others’. To be content, we have to learn to live for God. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Giving our time, gifts, and resources to benefit others will bring us contentment in life.
Bitterness comes from unforgiveness. Most of the time, we are unwilling to forgive because we want the person and everybody else to know how much we hurt. But God instructed us to forgive for our own good.
He is the true judge, and He knows how much we got hurt. A bitter heart cannot be open to love nor can it experience joy.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32
Guilt and Shame
We feel guilt and shame when we allow our failures to define who we are. We have to learn to separate our actions from our identity. If we are in Christ, 1 Peter 2:9 declares that we are chosen, royal priests, God’s own possession. Our actions can never change our identity in Christ. And Romans 8:31-39 reminds us that nothing can separate us from God’s love.
Pride and self-reliance are our first parents’ downfall. We all want to be our own little gods. We want to do it our own way. In reality, these behaviors cause a person to feel insecure.
John Piper says that “pride not only multiplies the weight of our anxieties, but makes our loving Creator, our honorable King, and our gracious God into our omnipotent enemy.”
3. Learn to travel light.
God wants us to travel light. “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’” (Matthew 11:28).
This is such a simple solution that we usually don’t believe it. We want more complicated steps. But when God says that He is “I AM,” He wants us to know that He is the only one we need.
We can bring our emotional baggage to God by simply praying to Him. We can candidly tell Him about our past, present, and our worries about our future. We can tell Him why we might feel guilt, shame, anxiousness, and insecure.
When we define who we are based on the baggage we carry, we can believe lies that keep us from moving forward in our lives—whether it is lies about ourselves based on what we have done to others or what others have done to us. We can bring these lies to God, and He will remind us who we really are, who He says we are.
By praying and reading God’s Word, we can find out who we are and give our worries to a God that loves us and is will willing to take our burdens off our shoulders.
4. Seek professional help.
Sometimes, our emotional baggage may be too deep or too painful to bring to God on our own. There are some obstacles in life that require professional help. If your baggage is too heavy and you cannot even begin to face it, please seek professional help. We have a Care Team that would love to help you navigate this difficult area in your life.
To find the help you need, visit Counseling.
Whatever step we need to take, may 2019 be the year we start to travel light.
Check out our “Happy Place” resources to find out more about how to resolve hurt and let go of emotional baggage that can hold us back from experiencing happiness and fulfillment in our lives.