I’m sad. I’ve been sad a lot lately. More than usual. I feel it all day, and I feel it especially at night, alone, tossing and turning in a bed that never quite swallows me like I want it to. Like I need it to.

I am of a personality generally bent toward melancholy, the “joy of feeling sad,” I once heard it defined. It’s like a morphine drip on a cold, thundery night, this sadness — I can’t get enough, pondering all that’s wrong or “off” in the world.

All that’s wrong or off with me.

Over the years, I’ve counteracted my tendency toward emotional heaviness by traveling and photographing and video-logging and trying new foods and occupying new coffee shops and meeting new people. An intentional yin to my existential yang.

But at the end of the day, at the end of each escape, at the end of every exhale, I can’t go to bed not feeling things, sad things, heavy things — not breathing this same sweltering air. Feeling loss and longing.

Yearning for fantasies of another life. Another yesterday, another tomorrow.

I am a sensitive man who feels so much, and I’ve hated that I am this way.

As YOB has undergone great transition in recent months, my own life has paralleled this change. I moved out of a years-long home with other guys once connected with this community and now live alone for just the second time in my life — the previous time being for hardly three months. I’m now going on eight months in this second round.

Living alone became a necessary spiritual and emotional pivot for this next season, however long it lasts, wherever this road leads. I’ve been trembling throughout this entire season, more and more with each passing month, wondering when the winter will end.

Surely this winter ends like all the other winters before it?

In times like these, I think a lot about my relational failures. I dwell relentlessly on them. Replaying and rethinking and re-feeling everything.

My failure in communication. Failure to listen, to ask questions. Failure to establish mutual expectations.

Failure to address conflict immediately rather than hope it works itself out like a magic potion.

My failure to be a good brother.

Also, my failure to be a good son. I often feel as though God must be endlessly frustrated at me, despite all my accumulated Christianese wisdom and Scripture saying otherwise.

As a YOB leader, I often feel feeble. It’s not that I see my faith as false or that Jesus isn’t worth living and dying for — I truly, deeply, with every wincing ache believe that he is.

But I constantly second-guess my witness, my story, feeling shame that I don’t translate my Jesus-journey well enough, effectively enough, lifechangingly enough. Not with my words and not with my actions. My conversations. My everyday breathing in and breathing out, both on this website and especially off.

I read the Gospels and see a Jesus who changed people everywhere he went. Yeah, he healed people and made wine and fish and bread out of nothing.

But, really, at the core, Jesus didn’t do that much. All he did was simply look people in the eyes and speak truth and love, both parts together, and people ran home and told everyone about this man who loved them and changed their lives.

Jesus altered people’s stories forever — and, crazily, he said we would do wonders greater than his:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

Does this Jesus I follow filter out of me? Do people see, do people care? Are people drawn in or repelled by what I write and record and film and otherwise do? Do others respond to what I do and run and tell of what God has done in their own lives? What of these “greater works” he promised of those who follow his name?

I had a recent conversation with a friend, and this question was posed:

Without Jesus, what drives a person?

I’ve been pondering this thought a lot lately; it’s one I can’t even fathom. Without Jesus, who would I be? What would I do apart from him, apart from YOB, certainly, apart from the stories I tell? What would be my career, and what would be my purpose? What would even inspire me to wake up each morning?

I can’t imagine ever discarding this Jesus. I can’t imagine waking up without him or tossing and turning with a Jesus-void in my soul.

Even on my worst days, my heaviest days, he is there. And there have been a lot of worst heaviest days of late.

I can’t shake Jesus, but I wish I could shake all these feelings. I wish I could turn it all off and just be “fine” with how things have gone over the last eight months. But I can’t.

Night after night as I twist in my sheets, my feelings blast like a neon nightlight.

Jesus is there, I believe, there in this neon darkness. He has watched me cry, night after night, blog outpouring after video outpouring.

A confusion turns to sadness turns to frustration turns to teary turmoil as I look around my empty apartment and cry that none of this is how it should be. My life. This world. Brokenness.

Everything is broken. I see it now more than I ever have.

Where is the healing? Jesus, you can turn water into wine but not doubt into faith? Misdirection into realignment?

I’ve cried more these last few months than I’ve cried in years. Tears in my car. Tears at my old home, tears at my new one. Tears into multiple sturdy shoulders of multiple willing brothers. Heavy tears that make me feel I’ve run a marathon, my face drenched in salt, my chest sore from gasping.

Gosh, how I want to unplug my heart and bask in a feelings-free paradise. To be a feelings-free man. To “bro” this and “dude” that and numb myself in a torrent of video games and female pornography and fantasy football leagues.

I don’t want to feel anymore.

I don’t want to feel codependent anymore.

I don’t want to feel let down by dreaming too much about brotherhood, making it an idol.

I don’t want to feel like I’m constantly in survival mode, always only ever getting through something. I don’t want to mark days off a calendar, always pining for a sunnier tomorrow that comes and goes faster than a song on the radio. If it ever comes at all.

I’m a sensitive man who feels things, feels things all the time, and no amount of oversleeping or overdrinking or pornography or promiscuity will turn me off.

The only thing I know to do with my oozing heart, other than cry it out or pursue unhealthy outlets, is to write it out. To tell my story.

How I hope my emotional oozings land with someone who needs it.

I know I’m not alone. I’ve certainly needed the mess in others’ writings and videos and podcasts to help me through previous hardships. Mystically, I know all these devastations bind us to another, for better or worse, til death do us part.

Maybe in these wintry silences Jesus is prodding us all to step out — further, deeper — with one another.

“I’ve given you many brothers in this season,” I hear him whisper in the bedroom silence. “Lean on them. Let them be Me for you.”

I writhe in the sheets once again, the neon piercing my shut eyelids.

“And keep feeling your feelings,” he says. “Each and every one. For I made you this way. And did I not call you good?”

Do you find shame over being a sensitive or emotional man? How have you responded to hard seasons of the soul, both with God and with others?

About the Author

  • Greetings, Tom, from a fellow melancholy. One who aches with you as he reads your words. One who feels with you, because he, well, feels so very much. Sometimes I think my heart will just burst for all of the evil and horrible things in the world, for what happened to me as a child and how it affects me still today. Knowing that there are other men out there who have been wounded like me and are dying inside, but they, unlike me, cannot give voice to their inward thoughts and feelings…their despair. How to reach them? How to help them with the help I feel I have received?
    But, listen, Tom, you said the truth at the very end. God did make you and He made you very good. I know it is so cliché to say it, but He really does need people like us to feel and care and touch the tender places in people’s hearts because we do.
    Oh, I could go on and on about this. My brother, Jesus Christ sees every tear. He is your victory.
    Yes, Jesus turned the water into wine, but water and wine have no will. You do. As you choose Jesus over the beggarly things of this world, you overcome doubt and exercise faith. Keep choosing, Tom. Love you, brother.

  • Sorry you are going through a hard season. I think Jesus is coming soon and we’re all being tested hardcore. You’re doing great. You’re an awesome guy and I hope you keep doing you. No one can replace you. Your work pleases God tremendously! It blesses others including me. Just the fact that you are willing to be open and vulnerable. That’s manly. I just went through the hardest season of my life. 1 1/2 years of being cheated on and lied to by a “Christian” guy. But God gave me what I needed to get through, even though it didn’t feel like it. I’m on the other side. Healing more quickly than I thought possible, and oh so much stronger and wiser. Now I lead a bible study for a handful of gay guys (and girls) and know that God is with me. I don’t understand the last couple of years but broke through and decided to have faith and trust God anyway. What choice do I really have. I’ve been close to God all my life. Prayers and blessings brother. Open yourself to the experience. Also I read an incredibly helpful book called Inner Matrix about meditation which was one of the most influential books of my life, next to the Bible. Look forward to reading the rest of your story.

  • Tom, I can’t answer most of your questions. I don’t think I can answer a third of my own, but these I can answer: Does Jesus filter out? Yes, emphatically he does. I see it. I know many other who see it as well. And yes, I have been drawn by your courage and transparency, and I have responded in kind as I know many others have. It has been humbling to learn from a young man who is almost half my age, but I have. Because of what you have done here, I have several brothers I can lean into when I get overwhelmed by the sorry state of the world or my own ineffectiveness. Because of what you are doing here, I have established the closest friendship (apart from my good wife) of my life. I have never met you and may never do so, but I am genuinely grateful for these things. I understand the deep feeling and all the self-doubt. My wife and I were discussing this week how good it might feel to just hit the off switch on this stuff. Many folks in the church seem to do it, and a majority of them appear, appear content. But the alternative is not something any of us want. I counseled a pastor last week who has done great harm to a ministry through his callousness and insensitivity. He doesn’t see it. He is “content” with leaving so many monumental things unspoken to his own wife. I could second guess myself endlessly on how I handled our discussion, but ultimately I have to accept that I tried to be kind, I tried to be honest, and I covered it all in prayer. Yet, I see no benefit to the kingdom for all the effort. There are times when I look at my abysmal sales on Amazon, and I laugh bitterly or curse under my breath. But then I struggle to remember the feedback from more than a few victims who have been encouraged and helped by the book and other writings. Most of the time, it does seem pointless, but it is good to remember their words. You need to hear the words of those you have impacted well, Tom. In part, they are the words of a kind and appreciative Father.
    btw, I did not intentionally go incognito again. I just can’t figure out all this tech stuff most of the time.

  • Being sensitive is not a bad quality, Tom. Never feel shame. Shame is a very negative emotion/thought. You are a wonderful human being. Just Be — live authentically. Please do not beat yourself up. If you need to or desire to talk, let me know. Hugs.

  • Y’know, I’ll never forget my ol’ dad when these things would happen to him, the things he’d say to me. . . . What the hell are you doing in the bathroom day and night, why don’t you get outta there and give some one else a chance?
    OK, that was a shameless rip off from Young Frankenstein but yeah, I’m lost for words, or good enough words. I’m guessing most everyone who stops by YOB can empathize with where you are. I think it’s a lie that we’re not meant to come to that place following Jesus. Or that we won’t be brought there more than once. Didn’t Jesus say that it’s the poor in spirit who are blessed, that their’s is the kingdom of heaven? Maybe we’re most human, most true, when all we have is God.
    When you’ve been there before, wasn’t it his light that rescued from darkness, and his life that ended the dying, and his love that transformed sadness? It can be the hardest thing when you’re broken to look to Jesus, to believe that God loves you, just to believe at all. I wish I understood it better, but when the heart sees Jesus everything that matters changes, always.
    You matter so much to so many guys, you matter to me. And it’s not cause how good you’re doing or if you’re struggling. It’s cause you’re true, you’re the real deal. Your faith is genuine, and the Jesus you believe in comes alive thru you. Know that I’m praying for you Tom.

  • Sensitivity is a blessing and a curse.
    I’m grateful for the ability to feel, but sometimes I wish I was like Data from Star Trek and could turn my emotion chip off and on at will.
    Hope you feel the support and brotherhood you need.
    One day at a time. One day at a time

  • In my childhood, I did feel shame being a “sensitive and emotional” kid. It would usually be the result of a bullying incident. But as I matured and grew older, I manage my emotional turmoil better. As a child I was an emotional rollercoaster, yet as an adult I garner more of an objective disposition. I suppose I should thank my father for that. He was always emotionally distant. It had helped me on my job to troubleshoot problems more effectively. However, when the job concludes at the end of the day, I want to FEEL my emotional/sensitive self come forth. I want to give and receive love from a special someone. I want hug them, hold them and tell them they are loved by me. I am not talking about living with a boyfriend or a gay marriage situation, but at least some semblance of a loving healthy platonic relationship or brotherhood.

  • Hey. This stirred me, and I am here to say that I relate to ALL of that, and damn does it suck. Feelings of guilt, shame, depression, anxiety that simply add onto each other until another feeling is added into the mix: feeling used. Not used by other people because I’m in a low state but used by those feelings that I allowed in for a moment. Those feelings that persisted on their own, in their own time, and will leave on their own, in their own time… When will those moments come? After they’ve had enough? After I’ve pushed on them hard enough? I’m not really sure, but I’ve been trying a new thing lately. In my states of feeling used and abused by my own feelings, I force myself to sit with Jesus, to confront my feelings with him. And about half of the time I feel a twinge of peace, perhaps even joy. But then it’s gone in a short time. But I force myself again — maybe the next day — to sit with Jesus. And I feel that peace; I feel it persist a bit longer, almost magnifying on top of the previous day’s peace. And I do this on and on and on until my feeling of being a Son, of being seen as already holy and blameless, and the logic of it all persists far beyond the feelings of shame, guilt, depression, and anxiety.
    It’s hard, Tom, so very hard to sit before Jesus in a horrible state of mind & believe anything other than shame and condemnation (maybe even apathy and annoyance?). But praise God that we don’t dictate the outcome of those moments. The Holy Spirit, for some odd reason, desires to use our brokenness before the King & catapult us back into believing truth, remembering redemption. There is always joy to come from being obedient to spend time with Jesus. It’s such a weird concept: waiting on the Holy Spirit to awaken the desire to love the Lord and others. But God doesn’t take away our feelings in order for that desire to come into our heart. He simply out-feels them with love, joy, peace, and hope. I know you know the pains, like I do, of being sensitive, of “feeling too much”, but in the good moments when we have good, godly feelings, don’t you always wish you could feel more? I’m here for you, I’m waiting on the Lord with you, I’m praying for you.

    • “But God doesn’t take away our feelings in order for that desire to come into our heart. He simply out-feels them with love, joy, peace, and hope.”
      Amen, Tyler. Amen and amen.

  • I have always been emotional. I never really hated it like you talked about. I mean, there were moments where I would be feeing everything and saying, “Man, this kinda sucks…” But I always took a little bit of pride in my many feelings. I think it’s because it separated me from my biological brothers.
    My brothers were not emotional. At all. They had emotions. But they were not discussed, shared, or revealed with anyone else. My dad was similar — emotions were minimal.
    Perhaps it’s reactionary for me then to love my emotional side. It sets me apart from the men in my family.
    I resonate with what God laid on your heart, brother. Feel the feelings God gave you. And when they become overwhelming, call on the Spirit of God to sit with you in those feelings. He will provide the strength you need in that moment.

  • For anyone who knows me at all, it is obvious that I feel things deeply. I am easily hurt by others, so I am regularly going to God asking for help to forgive whoever it is. He always gives grace to forgive and move on!
    When I am experiencing a dark time it is usually because of someone close treating me in a way that hurts. I seek to follow Jesus’s command to love my enemies and pray for those who mistreat me. When I get alone with God and ask for His help to do that do that, He always changes my heart so I can love again. Sometimes it is a long struggle in prayer, but His love always seems to be accompanied with joy and peace.

  • The word feeble has rocketed around my mine a lot recently. I just want to pound my head and ask why I can’t be purely rational. Why is my faith so weak? I got a simple answer from the pulpit awhile back that has also stuck with me. The minister stood and said, “If we are going to make it to that good and blessed end it takes faith. If you want faith, obey God’s commands.” It felt harsh, but I realized it was the truth. I was hoping I would wake up one day and the work would be over. It would all have been done for me. I know now that the strength Christ gives to overcome sin is intimidating. It forces me to recognize where I am lacking and struggle onward. The alternative is to deny Christ and follow my lusts and pleasures. I need to focus on my purpose and continually cut off anything that detracts from that mission.

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