The Christian and the Challenge of Emotional Expressions
by Felix Obi
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THE CHRISTIAN and the CHALLENGE OF EMOTIONAL EXPRESSIONS
I have observed that there seem to be an overriding influence of our African culture on our Christian experience. Africans are emotionally expressive and passionate people, but we seem to be inhibited in one area; the public display of affection. Our traditional parents were not conversant with such affectionate expressions of love that the Europeans display, such a kiss etc. We shake hands and embrace each other when we greet, but the display of love and affection in the home front is not one many of us are at home with since not all parents expressed such to their spouses and children.
As Christians who got engrafted into a new family, affection to each other is to be expressed by way of ‘a holy kiss’. But we are often confused as to how best to respond and express our affectionate emotions to each other as Christians. We tend to offer plastic smiles when we are not really smiling on the inside. However there are some Christians whose public display of affection had earned the wrath of others who considered such as way out of the top.
Shayo (not his real name) is a close friend who grew up in a family where public display of affections was the norm. As a kid growing up in England, he and his siblings received kisses and peck from their parents and are expected to kiss grandma and grandpa goodnight. He and his female siblings openly gave each other a peck and when he entered the University and joined a Fellowship, he treated the ladies as though they were his true ‘sisters’. He often caused a bit of an uproar in the fellowship whenever he gently kissed a lady’s forehead or cheeks, or gave a gentle squeeze to a lady’s hand in the fellowship without any sexual innuendoes. Since such display of affection bereft of sexual motives were seen as alien to our culture, the ladies segued from shock to confusion and considered him a ‘wacko brother’ who wanted to seduce the sisters in the fellowship. He learnt a bitter lesson and had to moderate his emotional expressions of pure affections while in the fellowship.
Upon graduation he joined a company where he shared office with a married lady colleague. They got along so well and he maintained an open friendship with the lady and with time got acquainted with her husband. Along the line, she proceeded on her 6 weeks annual leave. On the day of her resumption, Shayo was excited to see her, and unwittingly swooped and lifted her in his arms and gave her a gentle swirl and dropped her with utmost modesty. She seem to have enjoyed the experience going by the smile on her face but their male colleagues who watched the melodrama felt flummoxed and scandalized. They upbraided him for such a display of affection hinting that he was lucky that her husband didn’t ‘catch him in the act’. They told him that it was very un-African and un-Christianly for him to have had such ‘intimate body contact’ with a married woman. Yet in his heart, he felt he had no ulterior motives having done everything from a pure heart.
Another friend, Chioma (not her real name) who grew up in a ‘cuddly home’ watched her mum and dad kiss openly and frequently without blushing. Her parents loved each other passionately and affectionately doted on Chioma and her siblings. She was the atypical ‘daddy’s girl’ who sat on daddy’s laps in the evenings and kissed daddy and mummy goodnight before going to bed. She grew up to be comfortable in the midst of guys and was confident and self assertive as a young girl. When she entered the University as a teenager, she joined a campus fellowship. Treating the guys as ‘brothers’, she hugged them freely and had many of them as friends without crossing the fringes of morality. Not a few were perplexed and mystified by her freedom with guys and no sooner the word started spreading that she was a promiscuous lady.
A rumor-monger shared the unsubstantiated claim with her fiancé, and the latter ended their courtship instantly without checking the source of the news. She was openly ‘penalized’ by the leadership of the fellowship who felt a lady who freely mingled with guys must be promiscuous to say the least. But Chioma’s close friends knew she had always been open, caring and amiable person which made them stick with her despite the scandals. She was truly heart-broken and became withdrawn until she left the university. She had to face the reality that it was not everyone that saw the sincerity of her heart, and that ’to the pure, all things are pure’!
The Christian has a lot to learn from Jesus Christ whose emotional expressions and social interactions often shocked his disciples and followers because he didn’t so much care about how others judged his actions, knowing they were borne out of a pure heart. It was his understanding of God’s love for him and others that gave him the confidence to express emotions the way he felt was appropriate irrespective of how others viewed or perceived him. If we can understand this bit about Jesus, we might be on our way to emotional wholeness which positively impacts our social interactions with fellow Christians and non-Christians alike. When we are at home with our emotional expressions, we would be sure to understand others and give them the liberty to express appropriate emotions as we interact with them in church, workplace and our communities.
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