“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

There are plenty of things we want to keep. Pictures and videos of that special vacation or of the kids and grandkids growing up. Love letters. A special or rare book or musical instrument. A kitchen tool we don’t use very much, but is an essential for that one recipe we like to make on occasion. Clothing and shoes that had a high up-front cost, but are classically styled and are thus useable over a lifetime.

But then there are some folks rather like Helen in When Harry Met Sally, about whom Harry comments “the woman saved everything.” So there are piles of old newspapers or paperback books stacked floor to ceiling or boxes of who knows what filling the former room of the adult child who is now out on her own. Knick-knacks covering every inch of every piece of furniture and even large areas of the floor. Clothing that is never worn hanging stuffed in closets and on racks on the backs and fronts of bedroom doors. 

Sometimes keeping everything, however useless, reflects a scarcity mentality which took hold during a childhood of poverty, whether economic or emotional. Or it may reflect the notion that surrounding oneself with things gives and communicates worth. Could be that there is some huge hole that like Sheol, Abaddon, and human eyes is never satisfied (Proverbs 27:20).

In my experience, folks who hoard like that also hold on to feelings. They keep their anger and hold grudges for a long, long time. They repeat hurtful conversations, almost as if they derived masochistic pleasure from pouring salt in their own wounds. And they are stingy with affection or have a warped idea of how to show love, mistaking smothering and overprotection for that emotion.

Consider how much energy it takes to keep anger locked inside. Think about the emotional reserves expended that are no longer available for use when a crisis comes. Reflect on the loneliness of someone we might call a “feeling hoarder" with whom no one wants to talk anymore, because it’s too exhausting to hear those same stories over and over, in the same words.

Better to channel our anger, harness our emotional energy, expend our reserves for something positive and life-enhancing. To save life, instead of losing it. Better to trust God to keep us. Then we don’t have to hold on to anything, because our Lord’s powerful hand holds us fast (Psalm 139:10).

© 2011 Tom Cheatham