Don’t Tell Me How to Feel


If you are going to tell me how I SHOULD be feeling– there’s a good possibility that I’ll want to throat chop you.

Sounds kinda harsh, Holly. Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Got your panties in a twist? Forgot to drink your cup of coffee today?

Want to know what sounds harsh to ME??

Someone thinking they have the right or the God given responsibility to tell another person how they SHOULD feel. The thing about feelings is that they vary from person to person. So, even if two people experience similar situations or circumstances those two people can feel two totally different ways. Most of the time though, I’ve found that the person telling me how I should feel hasn’t experienced the same thing as me, but wants to be helpful.

Let me give you some personal examples:

I’m 30 years old and single. Please don’t tell me that I shouldn’t be sad, discouraged or angry. I don’t care if you’re 80 and still single or have been married since you were 18– there are days I’m going to grieve my singleness. There are going to be days that I feel like I’m going to be single forever. And there are most certainly days when I’m angry about it. Angry at God (as silly and stupid as that may be). Angry at myself for whatever fault I think it is keeping me this way. Or angry at you because you’re NOT single.

Nothing pisses me off more (seriously though) than someone who’s been married forever telling me how I should feel as a single person. It’s like nails on a chalk board annoying.

Another huge area people like to give the should/shouldn’t feeling guidelines in is grief. I lost someone very dear to my heart 7 years ago. Each day has not made that loss any easier.

Not one ounce easier.

In fact, some days it is harder. Much, MUCH harder.

“But, Holly, you said it was over 7 years ago. You shouldn’t still be grieving. Get over it.”

Let me give you some insight into grief, if you’ve never lost someone that you loved very much. Time does not make that loss easier because everyday takes you one day farther from the last time you were with them. One day farther from the last time you felt their embrace. One day farther from the sound of their voice on the other end of the phone. It means you’re not able to experience things with them that you were hoping to or celebrate milestones you thought they’d be present for.

I know some of you may be thinking one of the following:

  • She must be exaggerating or misinterpreting what people say.
  • She must be super sensitive.
  • People are right.
  • Holly is bitter. To this one I say, there is a difference between bitterness and passion and this is one of those circumstances where my passion for a topic may come across sounding bitter.

Even if any of the previous statements were true, and they may be, I still don’t think it gives a person a right to tell me how to feel.

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel because feelings are subjective.

It’s OK to feel angry. Being angry is NOT a sin. Don’t believe me? Check out Ephesians 4:26. By the way, Jesus got angry. He got angry at those prostituting the temple and at the Pharisees for their hardened hearts. Being angry, in an of itself, is not a sin.

It’s OK to feel disappointment.

It’s OK to feel sad.

It’s OK to feel excited. Ya, there are even some people who like to rain on other’s parades and tell them they shouldn’t be happy or excited about something because it might not work out like they had hoped.

When we tell someone how they should feel we are shaming them. We are classifying their feelings as illegitimate and that’s got to stop. It’s fine if you don’t understand the feelings or can’t relate to them most of the time, as I’ve stated in my previous blog post (Cliches, Platitudes & Useless Advice), people just want a listening ear. They want to be heard and loved regardless of whatever feelings they may be having.

So, no more “shoulds”, okay? I’m not afraid to use that throat chop, if I need to–just don’t make me. 😉




10 thoughts on “Don’t Tell Me How to Feel

    • I wondered what your thoughts would be coming from a counselor perspective. I thought I was “right on” (mostly), but of course I would since I’m writing it, ya know?

      Thanks for reading and encouraging!

      • You’re doing awesomely. Wow. That’s evidently an adverb and a real word…

        Anyway, yes. One of the worst things a counselor (or even a friend) can do is discount our feelings or tell us we are wrong to have them. Like telling someone they should not be angry with God. Although, it may FEEL like we get angry with Him, what happens to use is often the result of someone else’s stupidity or freewill or whatever… It’s not like we’re marionettes or anything.

        We don’t actually get angry with God, even if we think we do. He’s not at fault. We get angry/sad/disappointed at the sitch. And then yell and beat our fists. And we have every right.

        Just as we have the right to learn it’s not always productive, despite feeling great at the time.

  1. “To this one I say, there is a difference between bitterness and passion and this is one of those circumstances where my passion for a topic may come across sounding bitter.” There are some people who are so distanced from this kind of passion that they cannot imagine any strong emotion not being “bitter.” How tragic! As if bitterness came before passion. As if hate and bitterness are the strongest emotions! Jesus felt the strongest emotions, pain, loneliness, anger, confusion and forsaken-ness of all. I can only imagine the “every day being further away” part. Even losses of people who are not that close to you are that way to a degree – after 10 years you realize again that they are never coming back. I know it would be the way you say if I lost my best friends or my husband. I’m so sorry you feel this pain.

  2. Holly, I love your blog. You’re a beautiful job writing about important things and I appreciate it. A word about grief. I’ve not had someone very close to me die, so I don’t speak from my own experience, but I’ve been close to a lot of people grieving horrific losses, and I’ve done a lot of listening. One of the things that really struck home was something my friend said in response to a TV show where someone was counseling a character who’s loved one was about to die. Counseling character said, “I will hurt a lot. And then it will hurt less” and my friend watching added one word. “often.” Everyone was a little taken back. “It will hurt less often.”

    Thanks for writing.

    • Thank you so much, Clara. And I think the quote concerning grief is well put. There’s no textbook for grief and I think that’s one thing we always forget with people. And that grief comes in so many shapes and sizes for all different people. We react different and work through the cycles at different paces and then rework through the cycles. 😉 Ya know? I appreciate your thoughts and encouragement very much!

  3. Amen, amen, amen. I am actually working on a similar post about anxiety. I have anxiety. If one more person thinks all that takes to make me better is to quote scripture at me, I’m going to drop kick them.

    • haha! No doubt, Emily. Most people just don’t understand…that’s why I keep praying for supernatural grace. I need it in my life so I don’t kill people.

  4. Not Right Now by Jason Gray
    I thought this put music to your feelings. And the video for the story behind the song is good as well.

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