Emotions and Self-Control image

Emotions and Self-Control


The Bible, psychology, and neuroscience are three of my favourite things to learn about. (Although admittedly my understanding of two out of the three is very much at a layman’s level!) I therefore really enjoyed two books I read recently which combine insights from all three to help give a Christian understanding of emotions and of self-control.

Untangling Emotions by J. Alasdair Groves & Winston T. Smith

I sometimes worry that as Christians we tend not to be very good at understanding and learning from emotions and I’ve become increasingly convinced that doing so is vital to growing in maturity with Christ. In my own life, a season of seeing a Christian counsellor hugely helped me to experience the positive impact of learning to understand and respond well to my emotions. That meant I was really excited to see that this book, co-authored by the director of CCEF’s School of Biblical Counselling and a church pastor, was being published.

Groves and Smith structure their book in three parts. They first talk about understanding emotions, explaining what they are, why we experience them, and what they are designed to do. Groves and Smith present emotions as outworkings of our loves which I find a really helpful concept.

The second part of the book looks at how to engage emotions, what to do and what not to do. But it was the third and final section which I found most helpful. Here the authors draw together all that they have said to talk about how to engage some of the hardest emotions (fear, anger, grief, guilt, and shame). This section is so helpful not only for what it says about these specific emotions but for the way it provides worked examples of the process of understanding and engaging emotions which the first two sections described.

Untangling Emotions is a book which will help anyone with emotions (so, anyone) and is particularly valuable to pastors and those who find themselves helping others to navigate their emotions.

Your Future Self Will Thank You: Secrets to Self-Control from the Bible & Brain Science by Drew Dyck

Observant readers will have noticed that I’ve actually already mentioned this book twice on Think. That fact testifies to how good I think it is.

The title and subtitle are a pretty good insight into the content of the book. I love the way that Dyck hasn’t ignored the findings of neuroscience and just shared what the Bible says, and he hasn’t just shared the findings of neuroscience and ignored what the Bible says, rather he helpfully combines the two in a way which shows how they can illuminate each other and work together. Another real strength of the book is Dyck’s conversational tone and his authenticity as he shares about his own attempts to apply some of what he was learning.

The chapters cover key points like the purpose of self-control, the enemies of self-control, marshalling willpower, and the importance of habits. There is also an excellent chapter about the difficulty of developing self-control in the digital era and a brilliant, and brilliantly titled, chapter ‘Grace Means I Don’t Need Self-Control … And Other Dumb Things Christians Think’.

This is a book which will help anyone who could do with developing their self-control (so, pretty much anyone). Pastors and those who disciple others will also find the insights shared to be a really useful tool.

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