Have you ever found yourself in a situation that left you wondering – how did I get here in the first place? It could have been a business deal that sounded good at the time, so you went all in without learning all the details. Or, maybe you agreed to loan money to someone who you thought was a friend, only to find out later that they were taking advantage of you. In both of these scenarios, this person was led by their emotions.

Many of the mistakes we make in life are caused by allowing our emotions to control us. This is what happened to Saul who later became Apostle Paul.  Saul thought that he was doing the will of God by killing Christians.  Needless to say, our emotions can get us into trouble.

In the first scenario, this person got involved in a business deal that they should have passed on. In the second scenario, the person allowed empathy to control them which impaired their ability to discern whether this person was actually a true friend.

When we allow our emotions to control us it demonstrates that we have poor listening skills. Meaning, we have problems hearing God. Constantly ignoring our conscience or ignoring the advice of godly people who have a vested interest in our success demonstrates that we have poor listening skills. Having poor listening skills is one of the reasons many of us find ourselves in hot water. Poor listening skills will cause us to make unnecessary mistakes and prolong our suffering, place us in a position of receiving less than God’s best, and decrease our chances of being a leader. 

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m currently single, have never been married, and without any kids. When I was younger, I wanted what my mom refers to as the checklist lifestyle. I wanted nothing more than to have a husband, kids, and a career at the exact same age when my mom achieved those milestones in her life. I remember when I turned 20 being so upset because I thought something was wrong with me for not being married by 19.

Although my mom explained to me that nothing was wrong with me, at this time in my life, I was a very poor listener.  Her words of wisdom went in one ear and out the ear. During this period in my life, nothing she said resonated with me. Mainly, because I kept encountering people who would question why I was single.

Since my emotions were not aligned with God’s word, I would allow them to project their checklist lifestyle onto me which destroyed my peace and happiness (Joh 10:10). Every time I would complain to my mom about never finding the right guy, she would say, “Stop looking and just enjoy your life.” I think it was sometime during my mid-twenties when my mom sat me down and had a brutally honest conversation with me.

She compared my focus on Mr. Right to Eve’s downfall. Focusing on one thing you lack when you have 100’s of other things to enjoy is a stupid way of thinking.  She continued to explain that when we allow our emotions to control us, like Eve, we risk losing everything. We miss out on enjoying all the blessings God has already given us.

To this day, I’m so thankful that my mom had that conversation with me. It forced me to really evaluate what it was that I wanted in life. After doing some deep soul searching, I realized that I really didn’t want kids. My main reason for wanting them is because I thought I was supposed to have them and this was one of the things I needed in order to be happy in life.

My mom then said, “You know I love you but if I could go back in time we would not be having this conversation.  I would not have listened or followed society’s version of life; getting married at such a young age and having kids.” She then shared ALL and I mean ALL of the sacrifices they went through in raising my sister and myself.  My parents got married when they were 19 and were married for 23 years and she shared all the ups and downs that they went through. 

Due to me allowing my emotions to control me, in a weird way, I thought I was letting my mom down by not being married and having kids. When I shared my thoughts with my mom, her reaction was the complete opposite. My mom’s like, “You’re living the life I envisioned for myself. Carefree and just enjoying everything that God has to offer.” I thank God that my mom was determined not to encourage me to follow the generational lie that happiness is found only in being married and having children.” I remember her smiling when she said, “I love seeing you happy and enjoying everything that life has to offer.”

As I grew older, I could not thank her enough for her advice. However, I could kick myself for allowing myself to suffer unnecessary stress. I would love to find Mr. Right one day. Whether or not he is in the cards for me is not going to stop me from living my life like it’s golden.  As I look back on my life, I can see that God was clearly protecting me from myself.  God knows I do not have the personality for a checklist lifestyle. Again, this is not a knock against those who have and/or desire to live this type of life. I’m literally talking about what is best for me. 

Honestly, my life is great…minus the whole pandemic and having Ken and Karens as my neighbors. My family and friends are great, everyone is healthy, I have a great job, and awesome passion projects that make a significant impact in other people’s lives and aid in their ability to achieve their own goals. Seeing and helping other people achieve their dreams brings me great joy. I could not ask for more.

If I had continued to ignore God’s word and godly counseling (my mom’s advice), I would have missed out on the wonderful experience of a lifetime.  The same concept applies to when I was looking to buy a condo.  I almost made the mistake of settling for a beautiful condo that my mom referred to as a pretty coffin. The condo was absolutely beautiful but it didn’t have any natural light, it didn’t have a view or any of the other amenities I wanted. The only thing it had going for it was it was large, had nice floors, and was within my price range.

Not thinking wisely, I thought, “Well, this might be all that I can get.” My mom was like, “Absolutely not. You’re going to keep looking.” Needless to say, she was right.  Just like the checklist lifestyle, had I given in to my defeated mindset, I would have missed out on my dream condo.

Along these lines is why I do not allow society’s definitions of success to control my thinking. My definition is very different from society’s version. It’s not based on achieving a checklist lifestyle, having a lot of money laying around in the bank and/or having a prestigious career. Success to me is based on how I am living out my purpose in life. Am I allowing my God-given talent to bring Christ the most glory within the timeframe God has allowed me?

When you live life from this viewpoint, the amount of success, peace, and happiness you experience in life will drastically increase.  You will not waste your time and energy on nonsense like worrying about what people think, when you are going to meet Mr. Right the list goes on. Viewing life from God’s perspective helps us to keep in mind that our life is like a vapor. We’re here one day and gone the next day.

What I have learned is that all of the adversity that we encounter is not in vain. If we control our thinking, this will stop our distorted emotions from ruining our life. All of which will help us to channel our negativity into something positive so that we can experience the extraordinary life Christ came to give us. Living an extraordinary life has helped me to be a shortcut for others.

Many of you know this but I’ve been teaching English online to adults since 2013. I’ve taught students from all over the world, China, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Portugal, various countries in Latin America, it’s a really long list. Just about every student I’ve had tells me on more than one occasion, “Tosha, this is more than just an English class. You’re the best.” I’m not saying this to flex, but I think the reason why they feel this way is because I have developed my listening skills.  

For many of my students, it feels weird saying students because I consider them friends. In any case, they know and appreciate the fact that I give them real-life advice. For example, being broke. Hey, I’ve been broke many times. That’s something that I’m very familiar with, so I always tell my folks that are in college if you can’t afford to pay for your books, then go check them out at the library. Just keep extending the date until the class is over or pay the fine once the class is over. Trust me, the fine is going to be much cheaper than paying $350 for a book that you’re never going to read again. 

I’ll never forget that 2 and a half hour drive to Northern Illinois University to pick up a business law book. That drive was worth every penny of gas money. I didn’t have $350 to spend on one book. Again, I do not come from a wealthy family. Every penny that came my way was earned. Even though I was working full time and attending classes in the evening, I was really struggling to pay for that last quarter of college. Long story on that one, but my dad had died earlier that year and we had a whole laundry list of financial obstacles that happened in addition to his death. Unfortunately, I’m still paying for my student loans.

Anyway, only someone who has been in this type of situation can feel confident enough to share this type of advice. Improving my listening skills has shown me that we all encounter adversity in life, but we don’t have to learn everything the hard way. The knowledge we need to control our emotions comes from aligning our emotions to God’s word.

However, if you keep allowing your emotions to control you, you’re going to lose your ability to hear the warnings that your conscience and loved ones are trying to provide. Fortunately for us, God blessed us with the ability to determine whether our hearing loss is temporary or permanent.

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