People probably like roller coasters for the same reason they like scary movies. There’s an undeniable adrenaline surge when you think your life’s in jeopardy.
But I’m not sure that’s a healthy way to live.
I’ve discovered lately that many people who no longer ride Disney World roller coasters are instead riding roller coasters of a different kind. Rather than pay the exorbitant gate fees at an amusement park, they’ve developed the habit of riding relational and emotional roller coasters.
Even though you don’t have to pay a gate fee for an emotional roller coaster, there’s a high cost nevertheless. So I’m determined to do my best to avoid emotional and relational roller coasters in the coming year.
How about you?
In order to minimize life’s emotional roller coasters, we must recognize how we’ve unwittingly ridden them in the past. This may require a painful walk down Memory Lane, but it’s worth the effort.
Here are 4 tips for avoiding emotional roller coasters in 2018:
- Minimize your contact with dysfunctional people. If you’re a therapist, this tip would be detrimental to your career. But for the rest of us, we need to choose our inner circle of friends carefully. Solomon warned, “Do not associate with those given to change; for their calamity will rise suddenly” (Proverbs 24:21-22).
Of course, it’s impossible to completely avoid dysfunctional people unless you become a hermit. And then the only dysfunctional person causing you problems would be yourself…
But let’s get real: Compassionate, caregiving people like me tend to spend far too much time in codependent, unhealthy, nonproductive relationships. Too often, we try to fix people who don’t really want to be fixed. Instead of making them any better, our own lives just become worse.
If you closely attach yourself to people who love emotional roller coasters, you will end up joining them on a jolting ride through life. Yes, if you love drama, it will be hard to give this up. But for me, life is too short for roller coasters.
- Make sure your life is built upon rock rather than sand. Jesus warned about this in Matthew 7:24-27, describing the fate of two different men who built houses. I’ve never noticed it before, but the man whose house was on a rock had a comparatively boring life! Hurricanes and floods could come along, and he was able to rest securely within the unshakeable home he had built. In contrast, the other man experienced an adrenaline surge every time a storm came his way. He never knew whether the sand under his house would suddenly give way during a stressful time. He ended up with a roller coaster life, continually subject to the weather patterns of his surrounding circumstances.
As a kid, one of my favorite stories was “The 3 Little Pigs.” Two of the three pigs had houses that could be blown down by the big bad wolf – who was a fitting image of the devil. Yet the third pig was safe from the enemy’s attacks. In addition to building his house with strong materials, there was a FIRE in his fireplace – a great picture of someone whose heart is on fire with passion for the Lord. If I had to be a pig, I would like to follow his example.
- Tie your emotions to eternal, unchanging things rather than the transitory conditions around you. If your state of mind is based on the weather or the daily stock market report, you’ll inevitably live a roller coaster life. Likewise, you’ll be a very moody person if you allow your disposition to be determined by how you’re treated by your boss, your coworkers, or even your spouse.
Too often, we’re like the teen girl trying to figure out if her boyfriend really loves her. Picking the petals off a daisy, she says to herself, “He loves me. He loves me not…”
But the good news is that we can tie our self-image to a Someone whose love is unchanging. There’s no roller coaster with His love, for He’s continually telling us, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3) and “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Not only does the Bible say your Heavenly Father loves you, but it also declares that He will never change His mind on that! Realizing this unchanging truth is an essential step in getting off of your emotional or spiritual roller coaster.
- Beware of physical factors that cause your emotions to fluctuate. The link between your body and your emotions is profound. If your body rides on a roller coaster of sugar, caffeine, junk food, and drugs (prescription or otherwise), your emotions are sure to follow. Likewise, yo-yo diets and bipolar sleep habits will tend to cause yo-yo, bipolar emotions.
And just as your body affects your emotions, the reverse is true as well. Solomon pointed out that the condition of your mind and emotions will bring either health or harm to your physical well-being: “A sound mind makes for a robust body, but runaway emotions corrode the bones” (Proverbs 14:30 MSG). Even without roller coasters in Solomon’s day, he could see the danger of “runaway emotions.”
Romantic Roller Coasters
If you’ve found yourself on a wild roller coaster ride in recent years, you’re certainly not alone. As I’ve documented in previous blogs, my good friend Ron has been a poster child for the roller coaster life.
Whenever an attractive woman shows Ron any attention, his heart goes flitter flutter. His hormones send his emotions sky high, making him feel intoxicated and strangely invincible. It’s like being an infatuated high school kid all over again.
However, you’ve probably heard the saying, “What goes up, must come down.” I’m not sure that adage is always true, but it surely has been the case with Ron. The elation he feels when he “falls in love” is quickly replaced by depression when the relationship doesn’t work out.
Although Ron’s pursuit of love is inherently hazardous, I’m convinced the romantic roller coaster can at least be minimized…
- Roller coasters are not as dangerous if they proceed at a slower, more deliberate pace. Although it’s seldom easy to slow down the freight train of love, it’s wise to at least include a few speed bumps on the journey.
- I keep telling Ron to fix his eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Once again, this is easy for me to say and hard for Ron to do. Yet this is the ONLY way to main God’s perfect peace amid a dating relationship or any other new endeavor in life (Isaiah 26:3, Colossians 3:15).
- One of the discouraging things about roller coasters is that they never really take you anywhere. After all the ups and downs, you arrive back at the same place where you started. This is a lot like the 40-year circular path the Israelites took in the wilderness. In contrast, God has a plan for your life, and that plan includes PROGRESS toward His PURPOSES. Every relationship or endeavor should be evaluated on whether it’s taking you further down the road toward God’s ultimate purpose.
So, are you ready to stay off unnecessary roller coasters in 2018? Are you willing to minimize the extreme highs and lows, opting instead for a slow, steady, purposeful walk with the Lord?
If you’re still young, I can understand why you might want to treat life like a face-paced, adrenaline-producing video game. But at my age, I’m finding that I must be strategic about how I spend my time and energy.
Let me know what you think! Am I being too hard on the roller coaster life?