There is a flip side to every story, even a bad one. Last night our women’s bible study group was discussing offenses. The passage was:
Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the Devil an opportunity.
The conversation turned towards how our words and actions cause others to take offense. I have had the conversation with countless people, family, friends, clients. It is a common theme, people wanting to take responsibility for how others feel.
I do not believe other’s feelings are something people should take on for themselves. I am responsible for my actions, if I wrong someone I have responsibility in that. If by my actions someone takes offense, I am responsible for my actions, not their offense. I am responsible for how I feel, not how others feel. If my actions make me feel a certain way towards someone, then I need to address it. If I am feeling convicted, I need to make it right; not because I caused someone to feel offended, but because I am convicted. I need to make things right, so I am right with God. My actions are not based on their feelings, but mine.
The flip side of being responsible for someone’s negative feelings, is that I would also be responsible for their positive emotions. Trying to control someone else’s moods is too much responsibility. It is a full time job. Multiple it by every person that you have chance to offend, and the job is insurmountable. We can not take on responsibility for other’s emotions, good or bad. Trying to control my own emotions is enough responsibility.
This is one of those areas where my career field backs up my point-of-view. I have seen too many abusers use the line “if you hadn’t made me mad.” Or blame their feelings caused by another to manipulate a child into actions that no child should have to do. Control is something that is given. When we take on responsibility for other’s emotions, we are giving them a way to control us. Learning that we are not responsible for another’s emotions, helps create a boundary that people with abusive tendencies can not use to be given control.
Helping others take responsibility for their own emotions, and knowing that we are responsible for our emotions helps develop a clear boundary. It helps to prevent enmeshment. It helps to easily define where one person starts and the other begins emotionally.
We all have times that we feel the need to take on another’s emotions or feel responsible for them. However, we should not take on that responsibility. It is too much for one person to carry another’s feelings. It can lead to abusive relationships and negative issues of power and control. It also helps to define clear boundaries in relationships.