How do you handle your feelings and emotions? Do you sit with them, name them, and address them as a valid part of you, or do you tend to push them aside and ignore them? As Christians, we’re often led to believe that feelings distract us from faith, but when we try to suppress or control our emotions, we often end up hurting ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually. This week’s Publishing Secrets guests, Charity Goodwin and Brittany Radford, have both had to learn the importance of fully experiencing and listening to their emotions. Through their mentor-mentee relationship and their collaboration on a devotional and workbook, they’ve helped each other and others grow in emotional intelligence and wholeness. Let their story encourage you to embrace every part of who God made you to be – feelings included.
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Whether you’re aware of it or not, your feelings play a key role in everything you do. Feelings can motivate us to take positive action and help us believe we can take on the world. But, on the other hand, feelings can keep us stuck in the same place, just spinning our wheels.
The thing is, ignoring your feelings can be damaging both mentally and emotionally. But in spiritual circles, we often run into the challenge of what to do with our feelings – and how faith and feelings can work together.
Charity Goodwin and Brittany Radford are both passionate about this topic. They contend that God gave us feelings for a reason, and so feelings should not be ignored. That’s why Charity and Brittany put together resources to guide people through the process of learning how to manage feelings in a healthy way.
By taking care of our emotional health, we are empowered to stay healthy in all aspects of our lives. So if you're looking for ways to become healthy and whole, you've got to start by exploring your feelings.
Charity’s journey to understanding and embracing her emotions reached a turning point when she experienced what she calls an “emotional heart attack.” As a busy pastor serving two churches, a mom, and a wife, she had overloaded herself with busyness and stress, all while ignoring what her emotions were telling her.
“I had been pushing all my emotions down, not really feeling any of them, seeking to be a ‘human doing’ versus a human being,” she recalls. “And it caught up with me.” Avoiding her emotions didn’t make them go away; instead, those emotions manifested in a panic attack with physical symptoms that were so strong, she called paramedics believing she might be about to die.
Charity says the experience taught her the importance of naming one’s emotions and properly dealing with them, rather than waiting for those physical symptoms to present themselves.
But for many Christians, feelings – and what to do with them – aren’t often talked about. As a result, many Christians believe it’s wrong to feel certain emotions, or at least to entertain them. We’re often taught to separate faith from emotion – especially negative emotions – and focus on being faithful instead. But, as Charity points out, “What it really means to be faithful is to honor all of who we are.”
Only by naming and processing our complex emotions – positive, negative, and everything in between – can we become whole as God intends.
Like Charity, Brittany also experienced a wake-up call to focus less on “doing” and more on being her authentic self. After going through a divorce, Brittany left her doctoral program and moved to St. Louis for a fresh start.
There, she struggled to find a church where she felt welcomed as herself. “I was always a bit different. I’m colorful, I'm opinionated, and I didn't grow up in the church, so I didn't understand that there's certain ways that a black church operates and things you don't say or do. Whereas my mom told me if you have a question you ask it, no matter who it is.”
Eventually, Brittany settled for watching church online. But when she saw an announcement about an upcoming speaker – Charity – she knew at once that this was someone different, someone she wanted to get close to.
“I had been on this quest of trying to find a spiritual mentor that really appreciated their blackness. Who was authentic, real, and could relate to the black experience, which was mine,” Brittany explains. Charity fit the bill, so Brittany reached out to her over Zoom, offering to assist with her business as a means of opening the door of communication.
Brittany sets a great example of persistence and confidence. Not only did she take initiative to reach out, but she was willing to keep asking if she received a “no.” And she also offered something of value rather than just expecting to receive.
Maybe you, like Brittany, have found someone that you want to get close to. If so, look for ways that you can serve them and the mission that God has given them. Doing this will speak volumes on your behalf, because it shows that you are looking for a mutually beneficial relationship, not just looking for what you can take.
Through the process of working together, Brittany started to realize that she’d been suppressing her own feelings and emotional baggage in favor of getting things done. That led her to work through Charity’s devotional journal, GET UP: Unearthing Your Passion and Taking Brave Action in 50 Days.
It wasn’t long before Brittany decided she needed to invite other people to join her in the journey. So, with Charity’s permission, Brittany started up a women’s Bible study on Zoom, with Charity’s book as the primary text.
The book is a 50-day journey through the story of Tabitha’s resurrection found in Acts 9. “It’s kind of weird,” Brittany says, “because I was facilitating, but also going through the process. And so, through this entire journey, I feel like I've been having a resurrection within my own self.”
While facilitating the study, Brittany added her own activities to help the women apply what they were learning. “She was really bringing in another way to embody what I had written,” Charity says. And watching her gave Charity an idea to take the book and its impact to another level.
Together, they created a workbook to accompany the devotional as a facilitator’s guide, using Brittany’s ideas for activities and experiences to include.
“While the book is mostly me, I like to believe that the facilitator guide is mostly her,” Charity explains. “I helped with some framing and some other things, but she's a genius in her own right. And it was just really exciting to see her creativity in line with what I had written, and to see this coming to life in a whole other way.”
Books can be extremely powerful. But how many messages would be so much more impactful if there was a workbook with activities to help people create experiences together? Now, anyone can take this workbook and start up a study group, and the message God has given Charity and Brittany can keep popping up all over the world.
Of course, the process of creating the workbook was not without its challenges. For Brittany, the greatest obstacles had to do with finding her unique voice and battling feelings of inadequacy. Having spent time in nonprofit academia, where she was accustomed to writing and communicating in very specific ways, Brittany felt stifled and boxed-in by her own writing style.
Through the process of writing the workbook, Brittany was able to gain confidence and to believe that she had something valuable to contribute, but it wasn’t easy. She recalls one day calling Charity in tears and urging her to find someone else to complete the book. Instead, Charity encouraged her to take some time, pay attention to her feelings, and let the Holy Spirit work.
“In previous settings, like in grad school and stuff, people just told me to get through it and don't worry about it,” Brittany explains, “whereas she really helped me to feel those emotions, lean into that, and work through that over the course of us writing this book.”
That’s an important reminder – sometimes, when we’re mired in doubt and feeling like we can’t do what we’ve been called to do, what we really need is a little bit of guidance and the space to be human.
Charity, on the other hand, says her biggest challenge was having a vision for the workbook that was too big for the time she’d allotted. With big plans for extra content – physical and electronic copies, video content to accompany each chapter, etc. – it came down to a choice between letting the project stall while they finished all of the extra pieces or just getting the workbook done and adding things like the video content later on.
“If your vision, like mine, is super big and amazing and awesome, it's okay to do it in iterations,” Charity says. “Sometimes we need to just get it done in the most excellent way with what we have, knowing that we can continue to add and enhance.”
That’s part of what makes Charity and Brittany’s relationship so special, because they were able to mutually grow and benefit through the experience, learning from the material itself and from each other along the way.
This journey that Charity and Brittany have taken is a great reminder to all of us that we’re all still in process. God can both work on us and allow us to impact others at the same time, as long as we don’t allow our imperfections to stop us from moving forward.
If you’re feeling discouraged or unsure of how to keep moving forward, Charity advises treating the practice of writing as a spiritual discipline. Much like spending time in prayer, writing is something that should be done daily and with intentionality.
“There are people that are actually waiting on you,” Charity concludes. “There is someone who needs to hear your story from your lips… so that they can have their own deliverance and breakthroughs. And so knowing that someone is waiting on you, what can you do? For me, it’s write every day.”
Brittany adds that it’s important to remind yourself that you are enough, and what you have to say is both valid and needed – even if your feelings tell you it’s uncomfortable to put yourself out there.
“If I can plant one seed, then I've done what God has called me to do,” Brittany says. “And so, thinking through all of that, if I trust the process, and that God knows that I'm enough, then I'm already halfway there. I’ve just got to continue to do it, even when I don't feel it.”
When you are able to understand and engage your feelings, you’re better equipped to work through them and recognize when they’re telling you to take a step back and when you should push past them to do what God has called you to do.
BIO: CHARITY GOODWIN
With 20 years in ministry, quick wit and practical wisdom, Rev. Charity Goodwin is a speaker on leadership as well as spiritual wholeness and emotional wellness. She’s the Clayton Site Pastor at The Gathering in St. Louis, MO, which is her hometown. Charity strengthens her ministry with certifications in Emotional Intelligence from Six Seconds as well as the research of Dr. Brené Brown. Her first book GET UP: Unearthing your Passion and Taking Brave Action in 50 Days was released in March 2020. It's a devotional journal.
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BIO: BRITTANY RADFORD
Brittany is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, and credits it as her starting point for enacting change. Growing up in the inner-city provided her with a distinct perspective and drive to work in the nonprofit sector. Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with an Ethnic Studies minor from Case Western University and a Master’s of Science in Human Development and Family Sciences from Mississippi State University. Brittany’s research focused on the relationship between faith, youth development, and racism in The United Methodist Church (UMC). Her research and community service have earned her awards including the SECFR Outstanding Paper Presentation, a Racial Reconciliation Grant, Starkville's’ Rising Stars Under 35, and the Mississippi State’s 2018 Graduate Student Diversity Award.
Brittany’s professional background includes over 10 years of academic advising, community engagement, data analysis, program development/implementation, project and grant management, and volunteer development to build sustainable initiatives to effectively support underserved populations. Recently, Brittany decided to leave the traditional non-profit sector and join the Gathering UMC staff as the McCausland Site Director. In this role, she has the opportunity to walk alongside others on their faith journey. This fall, she will begin her Master's of Divinity at Eden Theological Seminary with the intent of becoming an ordained UMC pastor.
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