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 directions.

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.

 

 Joseph Luke Palotta, M.D.

 Christian Psychiatrist

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