Recently a question came up: Biblically speaking, are we responsible for another person’s feelings? In other words, do our actions play a role in how a person feels? Initially I was somewhat stumped by the question, because over the years, I have generally been taught that how I feel is exclusively my responsibility. My initial reply was actually somewhat guarded, and I did come up with a few examples of how one person’s behaviours MIGHT lead to another’s negative feelings. Yet I was not confident in my reply.
Often in the mornings while I am getting ready for the day, I pray while I work through my daily routine. This morning, I was drying my hair thinking about whether or not I am going to be able to get into the garden later today with this heat. . . .and also found myself praying the deer didn’t eat the flowers in the prayer garden over night! Just a bunch of typical random thoughts running around in my brain.
As I was going through the morning, when I noticed that still small voice saying to me, “They asked you about responsibility, isn’t Yahweh’s example enough?” I didn’t quite understand it at first, but then another whisper, “Think on Yahweh’s wrath and from where it came.” Suddenly I realized this whispering was in response to the question about feelings. As I realized that, a deep feeling of confirmation washed over me.
And so, I thought for a bit. Suddenly cases from scripture started to flow into my thoughts - situations where Yahweh’s wrath is kindled. Times when He has been brought to the point of executing consequences upon His people when their behaviors resulted in Yahweh feeling anger. I found myself seeing why I received that message in the morning of how His example needed my closer look. Each time God was angry it was because someone did something against Him, His counsel, His teachings, or His principles.
“And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.”
Numbers 11:1 KJV
“For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.” Deuteronomy 7:4 KJV
These are just two examples of how someone’s deeds, what they do and say, can stir emotions in another. Of course, we know that Yahweh is in many ways different than we are, and He even tells us: Don't seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God's wrath. For it is written, "Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord." Romans 12:19
Yahweh is patient with us as well as loving and very kind. He grants us chance after chance after chance, still forgiving us along the way. And we are to be an example of that forgiveness in our lives, forgiving others as often as offense happens. Yet there are times when our emotions, including anger, are righteous or justified. The question, I believe, isn’t whether someone else is responsible for our emotions, but are they responsible for our actions based on our emotions? And to this I have to say, NO. We may feel anger, hurt, frustration or any other in the range of emotions, but “they” are not responsible for what we do with those emotions. Instead, we must accept that even in the worst of hurt, WE are responsible for our ACTIONS when we allow ourselves to be overcome with emotions which lead to improper actions.
If we become violent, angry enough to exact vengeance, or react in any other way which goes against the teachings of Yahweh in scriptures, then we need to know that we have gone beyond our realm of authority. Arise, Yahweh, in your anger. Lift up yourself against the rage of my adversaries. Awake for me. You have commanded judgment. Psalm 7:6 WEB This is a perfect example of what we OUGHT to do with our negative emotions – give them over to Yahweh in prayer and turn to Him to handle the situation. We could, though, instead of praying He exact judgement or wrath upon someone, pray for Him to handle it completely, remove the feelings of vengeance from our hearts, and fill us with peace and knowledge that He’s got this!
Let’s go over a couple of examples of emotions we might feel based off of the actions of others:
Trust – When a couple marries, they have trust in each other. Certain things each does during the marriage can build that trust to make it stronger, or damage that trust to make it weaker. Are the spouses then responsible for the emotions each feels? Yes. I believe the worst-case scenario would be in the case of adultery. It is very difficult to rebuild trust after the sin of adultery is committed. If the offending spouse, for demonstration purposes only, the husband starts to mimic the untrustworthy behaviors seen before, the hurt spouse, in this case the wife, will likely again lose trust in her husband. This is an expected response to the husband’s actions. Do you see the responsibility here for how the wife feels?
Now if the wife takes that lack of trust and acts out in a way that violates Yahweh’s commandments, those actions would be all the responsibility of the offended wife. Those reactions may have been influenced by her husband’s actions, but she should have taken all negative feelings to Yahweh. If she was feeling the lack of trust lead her to vengeful pursuits, she needs to remember that vengeance is Yahweh’s. Staying true to Yahweh’s teachings is the path she should have taken.
Anger – in dealing with a situation involving a friend or family member, they commit sin against you in some way which results in your being angry at what they have done. This is not the first time this has happened, they have set a precedence, and you are weary of the cheating, stealing, lies, deception, or whatever the violation. You find yourself getting angry, fed up, frustrated.
What do you do with that anger in your heart? It MAY be justified, and I believe that you MUST take this to Yahweh – not to friends and family, to Yahweh. Only HE can tell you truly if you are justified. And only He can rebuke you when not. If justified, too, Yahweh is the only one who can help you remove any bitterness or vengeance from your heart.
Hurt – Sometimes people do things that hurt us, bring us pain, disappointment, anguish, distress, or sorrow. Sometimes, too, they repeatedly do these things so the hurt can be ongoing.
Remember that forgiveness is key. We are taught to forgive and how often.
“Then Peter came and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?"Jesus said to him, "I don't tell you until seven times, but, until seventy times seven.”
Matthew 18:21-22 World English Bible
Forgiveness, to go into depth, needs its OWN lesson on our ministry page – but simply put, we need to let go and forgive. Yet, sometimes we cannot place ourselves back in the company of those who are toxic to us or our families. Many will try to convince you that, even in these cases, part of your forgiving them is that you must let them back in. And you do not. Scripture tells us that there is a large group of offenders that we must avoid. One simple example is bad company corrupts good morals.
(Found in 1 Cor 15:33)
Sometimes our emotions come all rolled into one big package, too. Hurt, anger, lacking trust present simultaneously. Then because they are so powerful, they lead to feelings of vengeance. There are times when we may feel these feelings so deeply that we don’t catch ourselves before our heart feels vengeful. We MUST remember at this point that what happens next is ON US. If we act on that vengeance, we will need to repent and turn it all over to Yahweh.
Going out into the world, into our families, amongst our friends, we also need to see the OTHER side. When have YOU been responsible for how someone feels? Are there things you need to repent of and ask forgiveness for?
I am NOT saying that we are responsible for their bitter root, hate, vengeance, or anything taking place in their heart. Yet our actions may be the initial seed of hurt, anger, or distrust emotion which then sprouts and takes root into these other sinful actions. We ARE allowed to feel our emotions because often those are based on our experiences with a specific person. These are the negatives. And yet we also learned to LOVE because someone DOES SOMETHING or THINGS that make us feel that deep emotion, don’t we? In fact, we love because HE loved us first…..
So I would have to say yes, there IS biblical precedence for someone being responsible for HOW we feel. . .but we should hold ourselves responsible for what we DO with those emotions. Yet as we feel emotions, let us, be a better example by living as counseled in the Word:
1 Thes 5:15 KJV “See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.”
Proverbs 20:22 World English Bible “Don't say, ‘I will pay back evil.’ Wait for Yahweh, and he will save you.”
Matthew 5:44 World English Bible “But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you,…”
Romans 12:9 World English Bible “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil. Cling to that which is good.”
1 Peter 3:9 KJV Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
Ephesians 4:26-27 New Heart English Bible "Be angry, but do not sin." Do not let the sun go down on your anger, neither give place to the devil (don’t let the devil get a grip).
Leviticus 19:18 World English Bible "'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people; but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh.
Shalom - Judith
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Lead Author (Bio)
Jim, (Judi's husband), has Sephardi Jewish ancestry and is a minister and head of Shofar Productions. Jim was a denominational pastor, hospital chaplain, and former director of a non-profit community organization.
Torah For Women
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