I don’t feel sad.
I don’t mean just at this moment – although I don’t feel sad at this moment. I don’t even mean in the last week or month. I simply don’t feel sad, well, ever.
The last time I remember feeling sad and crying was when I was 8 years old. I was living in Australia, and my big sister had just got married and left the country. I remember crying that night because Debbie had left me. My parents, brother and three other sisters were still around, but somehow my big sister leaving made me sad. That was 40 years ago.
I’ve had numerous events in my life since then that should have made me sad, of course. And when others learn of them they are often sad for me.
As I’ve spoken of before, I’ve suffered from pretty serious bouts of depression through the years too. But my depression isn’t sadness – it’s hollow (although discussion of that is for another day). I feel depression. I don’t feel sadness.
Now, you might be thinking that not being able to feel sad sounds great. No tears, no bursting of the chest, no… whatever you feel when you’re sad. But it isn’t. Because sadness is an important emotion that helps us process important events in our lives.
Disney Does Sadness
Think of the Disney film, Inside Out. If you’ve seen the film you know it’s about a girl, Riley, whose family makes a big move across country. There’s a lot for Riley to process, and through the film we see into her emotional control centre.
Like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise there are several beings occupying the place and running things, each with their roles – these are her emotions. To cut a long story short, Happiness is in charge, and stops Sadness from doing much; sad memories just get hidden away.
While Happiness believes this gives her more control to keep Riley coping with all the changes, in reality it doesn’t. In fact, it does the opposite. Eventually Riley starts to crumble, and it’s only when Sadness is allowed her proper place in Riley’s emotional line-up that Riley is finally able to deal with the major changes in her life.
Here’s a big admission from me: I can’t watch Inside Out. It’s triggering for me, and I have to leave the room if it’s on. That’s right, I’m unable to watch an animated Disney film – sheesh!
The Great Example of Sadness
Now, I’ve been thinking a lot about sadness recently, because I know it’s something I need to somehow learn to feel and express. And as I was thinking about it, my mind turned to the scripture in the Gospel of John:
“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)
As I pondered this verse, a couple of questions came to my mind:
- Did Jesus Christ live a perfect life? Yes. What does that mean then?
Well, it means that the tears of sadness Jesus expressed were entirely right and proper. It was good that He wept.
- Is Christ the great example for us all? Yes, of course He is. What does that mean for me?
Well, it means that if He felt sadness and cried, then it’s something I should be totally okay to feel too. After all, I’m trying to follow His example. Obviously, following His example doesn’t literally mean to do everything He did, but the fact that He wept, that he was comfortable demonstrating this emotion, is significant I believe. It’s the Lord’s way of waving a big sign and shouting, “It’s okay to cry!”
I’ve pondered more on this: about how the absence of my feelings of sadness demonstrate how incomplete I am, about how this is perhaps one of my “thorn[s] in the flesh” (see 2 Cor. 12:7), about how it is only through Christ that we are made complete.
Opposition and Happiness
Somewhat inevitably for me, my mind then drifted to that oft-quoted scripture, “…men are that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25). If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll know that I believe we usually take this verse out of context (you can read that here), but the essence is still true: that our lives are ultimately destined for joy. It is, after all, the Great Plan of Happiness (see Alma 42:8).
But the more I thought about it, the more I realised this verse in Nephi is inextricably linked to a verse earlier in the same chapter, another verse we often quote, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things…” (2 Nephi 2:11) If not, says Lehi, there would be no “…happiness nor misery…”.
Hmm. So, does that mean I can’t truly know happiness unless I’ve experienced sadness? We read elsewhere in the scriptures that we, “…taste the bitter, that [we] may know to prize the good.” (Moses 6:55)
If you give a child something sweet, she will likely enjoy it and want more. But how much more will she enjoy it if she’s previously tasted something bitter? In knowing the bitter, her enjoyment of the sweet will be that much the greater; she will be able to savour it in a way she otherwise couldn’t.
Yes. I think I need to feel the sadness somewhere within me: not just to process certain events in my life, but to truly feel happiness.
When Sorrow Is No More
The Great Plan of Happiness. Men are that they might have joy.
To get there, we must pass through a vale of tears.
It is only in that final day that the Lord will, “…wipe away all tears from [our] eyes…”. It is only then that, “…there shall be no more… sorrow…” (Revelation 21:4).
It is in that day, when our mortal sorrows everlastingly disappear, that our joy shall become full.
Does that mean we should pursue sorrow and sadness in this life? That somehow, such a course would increase our happiness? Of course not! Life gives us plenty of experiences of sorrow without any effort on our part to find more.
Indeed, Nephi teaches that his people “…lived after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). Our lives should be patterned likewise.
No, it is not more sadness I seek: merely to feel the sadness that is already buried somewhere within my body. How can I be comforted if I feel no sorrow?
Does it mean you need to have more sadness in your life? Definitely not!
But it does mean that your feelings of sorrow have purpose. It may be sorrow for sin. It might be sorrow for devastating events. It could be tears for a great many things. But in working through that sorrow – in coming unto Christ with your sorrow – healing can take place, and a greater happiness than you can imagine can be yours. It is only He who ultimately, completely and everlastingly can remove those tears.
And as for me, well, I just want to feel.
My Psalm of Sadness
Please bless me that I may do more than recognise the losses I experience,
Allow me to do more than merely acknowledge their existence.
Please allow the ducts in my eyes to open,
And for tears to fall freely.
Please cause my heart to swell for the things I have lost,
And my chest to ache for the things I shall not know.
Please infuse me with the strength to cry
And to feel my body in sorrow.
Only then can I seek comfort from those who are my friends,
And relief from those who love me.
Only then can a balm of healing be applied
Through the mercy of Thy Son.
Only then can I find that peace which passeth all understanding
And the joy of the saints which dwells deep in the heart.
Only then will I know Thy Great Plan of Happiness
For Thy children whom Thou lovest.
O Lord, my God, wilt Thou hear my prayer and help me to feel my sadness,
That I may more perfectly come unto Thee, through Thy Son.
That I may truly feel Thy love
And Thy happiness which has no end.
© Copyright Jeffrey Collyer, 2017