While she was on tour last year, news broke that Taylor Swift’s six-year relationship with Joe Alwyn had ended.

At her first show after the news, Swift was professional, happy, and more or less put together. There was no hint of whatever she was going through although her breakup was the biggest elephant in the room.

She even reassured her fans by giving a thumbs up to a “You OK?” sign.

But in her latest album The Tortured Poets Department, Swift surprised all with an open and honest revelation of her feelings back then through the track “I Can Do It With a Broken Heart”.

I can read your mind
“She’s having the time of her life”
There in her glittering prime
The lights refract sequin stars off her silhouette every night
I can show you lies

Beneath all the confetti and the glitter – it was someone who was trying to hold it all together.

“You gotta fake it till you make it”

I’ve always been aware that I’m naturally more emotional as a person. I’m more sentimental than most; I tend to feel things on a deeper level and sit with my feelings for longer periods.

“Why are you so emotional and sensitive?” Someone from church asked me this question when I was 17, and it stuck with me since then.

I inferred that emotions are bad. Emotions make you look weak. Emotions make you tiresome to be around.

There began a journey of suppressing myself, because I thought that good Christian girls had no emotions. They don’t feel things.

Originally coined by prominent psychotherapist and transpersonal-psychology author, John Welwood, the term ‘spiritual bypassing’ refers to using “spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep personal, emotional unfinished business, to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks”.

Most believers often think that they are not allowed to consider their feelings, name them, or express them openly as it can make them look weak or messy. This is especially true for the more “difficult” feelings like fear, sadness and anger.

  • I’m not lonely. God is with me.
  • I’m not depressed. The devil is messing with me.
  • I’m not angry. I’m supposed to have an unoffendable heart.

If I ever tried to open up about my true feelings and struggles, someone would say, “You should pray more” or “Have you tried praying about this?”

We sometimes try too hard to justify things that we don’t understand.

When something terrible happens, we tend to say, “God has a plan”. But why can’t we just be comfortable saying “I don’t know why this happened either”?

When these Christian platitudes are carelessly plastered over sufferings, they do nothing to help or stop the bleeding of someone’s gaping wound.

‘Cause I’m a real tough kid
I can handle it
They said, “Babe, you gotta fake it till you make it” and I did
Lights, camera and smile
Even when you wanna die

In his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, pastor and author Peter Scazzero wrote that one of our greatest obstacles in knowing God is our lack of self-knowledge.

We sometimes suppress all that we’re feeling and cut off our own humanity in hopes of looking more ‘spiritual’ and put together as Christ-followers. But this is precisely what imprisons us.

We fake it till we make it. So we end up wearing a mask – towards ourselves, other people, and even God.

Authors Dan Allender and Tremper Longman summarise the importance of being aware of our emotions in their book The Cry of the Soul:

“Ignoring our emotions is turning our backs on reality. Listening to our emotions ushers us into reality. And reality is where we meet God … In neglecting our intense emotions, we are false to ourselves and lose a wonderful opportunity to know God. We forget that change comes through brutal honesty and vulnerability before God.”

While it is true that our faith can help us to manage and not be overtaken by our emotions, it doesn’t mean that we won’t feel them. A relationship with God also does not guarantee life in a permanent state of emotional bliss.

Breaking down, I hit the floor
All thе pieces of me shattеred as the crowd was chanting “More!”
I was grinnin’ like I’m winnin’
I was hitting my marks
‘Cause I can do it with a broken heart

Without transparency and authenticity, even a lifetime of spiritual acts cannot bring about true and deep transformative work in our lives. There cannot be true intimacy when we are unwilling to come as we are.

He can handle it

The sad truth about putting on a false front and suppressing all that you’re feeling is that you end up living in a cage of shame and unworthiness.

We start to believe that we are too messy for anyone to handle. We forget how loved we are by God. And worse still, these difficult emotions will catch up with us one day.

I’m so depressed, I act like it’s my birthday every day
I’m so obsessed with him, but he avoids me like the plague
I cry a lot, but I am so productive, it’s an art
You know you’re good when you can even do it with a broken heart

The Good News? Jesus sees your broken heart. And His heart breaks for you.

He welcomes the beaten up, the downtrodden, the hopeless, the outcasts, and even the doubting ones.

Difficult emotions are not our enemy, nor are they factors that determine our closeness to the Lord. Even Jesus got angry. Even Jesus wept.

Emotions are simply signposts and signals from areas in our lives that require attention. They are just like a thermometer, an indicator of what’s going on inside.

Suppressing our emotions blindly is just like throwing away the thermometer without doing anything to deal with the fever.

And as we grow to have more empathy and compassion for our own emotions, we will also become better able to relate to and love others.

God never asked us to fix others for the sake of it. He asked us to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

Only when we can fight the urge to dismiss and bypass difficult emotions, then can we sit with others in their pain and suffering to offer a comforting presence.

‘Cause I’m miserable
And nobody even knows

Someone knows. God knows. If there is only one person in the whole world who can truly handle it all, it’s Him.

You know He’s good when He can even do it with a broken heart.

Would you put down that mask, and come as you truly are?

  1. How do you usually respond to difficult emotions in your life?
  2. How can you cultivate a daily habit of being honest with God?
  3. Know someone who’s going through a rough patch? Do something to show them love and empathy today.