A popular line from Rosalind in Shakespeare’s As You Like It goes, “Do you not know I am a woman? when I think, I must speak.”
When I first read it a couple of years ago, I immediately thought, “Wonderful! I now have a comeback for every time someone insists that I keep mum.” It worked for a while and it got me talking some more until realized how illogical it was to use my being a woman as an excuse to think out loud.
An older post on this blog talks about a personality test that I took and the corresponding result of that test. I shared it to my friends, Elsie and Tin and predictably, Tin and I got the same results. One of the questions during the test was:
Which of the following is more of a compliment to you?
a. That is a very logical person
b. That is a very sentimental person
Tin chose a and I told her, “Ah, me too! Cos I don’t receive that line very often.” She laughed and told me it was her very reason too.
The two of us are admitted sentimentalists, however bad the word may taste to some. We see the romantic side of everything and gush about the simplest things we see. We love sappy movies and cheesy love songs and we can go on an all-nighter just to talk about our own experiences on love and life and whatnot (eck). We just never stop talking when we’re together. And yes when we think, we feel obliged to speak.
Sentimentality is two-pronged, just like all other traits, and being a very emotional person has its own boons and banes. It’s good to be expressive because the mind, the liver and the heart (well, all internal organs get affected in some way) become healthier but the danger lies in wearing these internal organs on one’s sleeve eventually leading to them falling off and breaking.
Tin has been good at practicing private expression of her sentiments (journals, diaries, etc) while I have always felt that public expression helped me more. Going public always runs one the risk of being tagged as too open and too emotional (which I wouldn’t deny) and a lot of times I have received thanks for posts that readers thought were relatable and useful to them. On the other hand, I have also received criticism for publishing things which were better off on my diary (which I also regularly keep) and which have in some ways hurt other people close to me.
For people like us whose identities are exposed and who are being read by people in close physical proximity and by others on the Internet (basically the public), the challenge is to create out of the heart and not from it. There is a difference between the two: if you create out of your heart it helps you gain a larger perspective on the emotion that you are feeling hence your expression would not be limited to your personal experience. It may be based on your personal experience but you don’t need to share it just so you can create. The latter takes something contained in your heart, puts it into words hence you feel that you have given yourself away a bit.
Ultimately, I think of the process as THOUGHTS -> FEELINGS -> COMMUNICATION where the order gets changed depending on the situation. Generally, however, it works from the brain to the heart to the mouth and so we take first instance care in the thoughts we think and carefully filter them when we speak.
We can still fairly use Rosalind’s line as long as our thoughts have been carefully taken captive and made obedient to the cause of Christ (2 Cor 10:5; we cannot ignore that women are naturally more expressive than men). This means that we would have to evaluate whether our words are for building up and encouraging (1 Thess 5:11) or if they produce a different response, what that response is and if it is necessary. One such situation is whenever a intellectual discussion occurs and questions arise. Is the tension necessary? Would the outcome of the discussion clear things out or open new plotholes as in a story?
Being sentimental per se is not bad. Being expressive per se is not bad. Being both at the same time however, warrants special attention and needs proper care. Our freedom of expression was never absolute in the first place.