Triumphant Life Ministries Newsletter Vol. 7, No. 2 December, 1991
THE CONTAGIOUS QUALITY OF EMOTIONS
The Bible reveals God’s concern with expressed negative emotions being reproduced by those who witness them. Moses instructed the Israelites regarding warfare (Deut. 20:8 NKJV) that the officers should tell the people, “What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart.”
After God called Gideon to lead the Israelites to
victory over the Midianites, Gideon raised an army of 32,000 men.
The Lord told Gideon (Judges 7:3 NKJV):
“Now, therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people saying,
‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount
Gilead.’ And twenty-two thousand
of the people returned and tend thousand remained.”
The Lord subsequently had Gideon reduce his force further to only three
hundred, then gave them victory!
Fear, anxiety, and depression are just as contagious
and harmful today as in the times of Moses and Gideon.
It is common for entire families to fall into depression, one behind the
other, until many or all of the family members become clinically depressed.
If a married person who feels depressed and anxious begins continually
speaking and acting upon these negative emotions, the spouse and then their
children become tempted with depression. Depression
can likewise proceed in a contagious nature through groups or organizations.
Surely the brave Israelites under Moses, Joshua, and Gideon also were at
times tempted with anxiety, worry, or depression.
However, those chosen for battle apparently were those who refused to
demonstrate those negative emotions and thereby encouraged each other.
How can people keep from “catching” fear,
anxiety, or depression from others? First,
be aware of this danger and always be ready to reject angry, fearful, depressing
suggestions from others close to you. Second,
adopt a policy of not sharing repetitious, anxious, or depressing conversation
with others. Thirdly, if you are
the one being tempted to act anxious, fearful, or depressed, be always concerned
that you could depress those closest to you if you repetitively speak or
demonstrate such negative thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
Adopt a policy that you and those close to you are too important to you
to allow yourself to be a negative influence on the mental health and well-being
of your family and others. This
kind of ongoing concern with the welfare of those around you can be a wonderful
motivation to monitor your attitudes, words, and behavior.
You can continually re-select them in positive, healthy, scriptural
This is not to say that negative emotions should be
merely denied or suppressed, because that alone is often not sufficient to
produce mental health. What does
work is to express opposite, healthy, scriptural attitudes in place of the negative ones.
For example, fear and anxiety are best replaced by the decision to
demonstrate courage (“Be strong and of good courage.”)
Angry, depressed, sulking attitudes can be replaced with a decision to
reject bitterness (not merely to mentally suppress bitterness toward others) and
to practice rejoicing and thanksgiving (In all things give thanks).
These scripturally based decisions are closely followed by peace, joy,
effectiveness, and soundness of mind.
Luke Palotta, M.D.
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