“It is as healthy to enjoy sentiment as to enjoy jam” (G. K. Chesterton).
WE DO A GOOD THING FOR OUR FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES WHEN WE ALLOW OURSELVES TO FEEL THINGS DEEPLY. However tempting it may be at times to avoid the feeling of certain things, it’s usually better to feel them, at least for a while. People who feel are simply more enjoyable to relate to than those who don’t.
It’s important not only to feel things but also to express our feelings. Unexpressed feelings aren’t nearly as beneficial as those that are shared. We may not feel adequate to express our feelings wisely or well, but the effort is still worth making. Usually, our good intentions will be remembered longer than the awkwardness of their expression.
It’s important not only to feel our own feelings but also to feel the feelings of others. As André Gide wrote, “The important thing is being capable of emotions, but to experience only one’s own would be a sorry limitation.” The literal meaning of the word “sympathy” is “to feel with.” When we enter into the experience of those around us, feeling their feelings with them, wonderful things begin to happen.
There’s no use denying that some feelings are “undesirable.” Sorrow, for example, is a feeling we’d rather not feel. But many thoughtful people have discovered that we can’t suppress some emotions without lessening our ability to feel any emotion. We can’t blunt some feelings and still stay sensitive to others. Sam Keen was right when he wrote, “The ability to feel is indivisible. Repress awareness of any one feeling, and all feelings are dulled . . . The same nerve endings are required for weeping and dancing, fear and ecstasy.” So we need to hold on to the ability to feel, even when it’s painful to do so.
Our hearts were meant to do all three: think, choose, and feel. So we impoverish ourselves and we harm our hearts when we fail to do the third of these. And there is more than a little irony here. When we avoid certain feelings, thinking that those feelings would hurt us or somehow diminish us, what we find is that by saving our hearts we have lost them. At last, our hearts are like life itself: it’s in the act of yielding to loss that we finally find the thing we were looking for.
“In a full heart there is room for everything, and in an empty heart there is room for nothing” (Antonio Porchia).