A Call to Emotional Intelligence

Recently, I have not been blogging as much. One reason is because I been working on my master’s degree in Formational Leadership (emphasis on the heart and character of the leader), which requires a lot of it’s own writing and focus! But, a class I am taking right now and have been looking forward to for a while, is on Emotional and Cultural Intelligence. I have been looking forward to this class because I have come to recognize recently a couple of truths around emotional intelligence that I would like to share in this blog article. I believe what I am about to articulate addresses, perhaps, the single greatest crisis at the core of our current cultural issues. Let me state these two truths and then expand on them a little further:

  • The greatest current cultural, political, religious, societal, personal, family, organizational, leadership, ministry, social media crisis at present is a crisis of emotional intelligence. We are allowing our emotions to control us, divide us, and destroy us in many unhealthy ways.
  • I have come to realize that my most significant and personal regrets, failures, and mistakes in life, leadership, ministry, and relationships revolve around a lack of emotional intelligence, not so much spiritual depth or technical skill. The same is probably true for you too when you think about it!

If this concept of “emotional intelligence” is new to you, let me first provide some simple definitions. In Justin Baristo’s book, EQ Applied, he defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” (Baristo, pg.8). Justin goes on to elaborate further, as other’s similarly have, that emotional intelligence basically consists of four areas:

  • Self-Awareness: the ability to identify and understand your own emotions and how they affect you.
  • Self-Management: the ability to manage our emotions in a way that allows you to accomplish a task, reach a goal, or provide a benefit. It includes the quality of self-control, which is the ability to control your emotional reactions.
  • Social Awareness: the ability to accurately perceive the feelings of others and understand how those feelings influence behavior.
  • Relationship Management: the ability to exert proper influence and handle the emotions of others maturely. (Bariso, pg. 9-10).

Each of these four areas deserves much more time exploring in and of themselves. However, for this article, I will not delve deeper than providing those simple definitions. I do want to clarify, though, lest anyone think this is just a secular self-help way of understanding our emotions; that the concept of emotional intelligence is found all throughout Scripture as evidence of true wisdom and spiritual maturity. 

The book of Proverbs, for example, contains short, pithy sayings, many of which speak to “emotional” or “relational” type emotions, actions, or behavior. Topics such as anger, being hot-tempered, exercising self-control, walking in fear of the Lord, restraining from sin or folly and seeking or walking in wisdom, patience and understanding are all addressed in the book of Proverbs. 

The Apostle Paul, in the book of Galatians chapter five, writes about the true evidence of the Spirit’s working in the life of a follower of Jesus and defines those characteristics as being, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). What else are these other than manifestations of “emotional and relational intelligence?” And again, when Paul writes to young Timothy, a church leader, he calls him, among other things, to, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship…(2 Timothy 4:5). Not losing your cool and enduring challenges with grace, are calls to emotional intelligence!

When Paul addresses those who are qualified to serve as leaders in the church, it is imperative to note that spiritual maturity (character) and emotional/relational intelligence are emphasized far more than spiritual giftedness, talent, or skill. Paul writes, for example in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

Daniel Goleman, who popularized the concept of “Emotional Intelligence back in the 1990s, makes a compelling case for why emotional intelligence plays a much more significant role in our lives than we often realize. He writes in his book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, “in a national survey of what employers are looking for in entry-level workers, specific technical skills are now less important than the underlying ability to learn on the job” (Goleman, pg.12). Additionally, “of seven desired traits, just one was academic (Goleman, pg.13), and “the three most desired capabilities are communication skills, interpersonal skills, and initiative” (Goleman, pg.13). But perhaps the most potent argument Goleman makes is that “IQ alone at best leaves 75 percent of job success unexplained, and at worst 96 percent-in other words, it does not determine who succeeds and who fails” (Goleman, pg.19). Goleman summarizes, “emotional intelligence carries much more weight than IQ in determining who emerges as a leader” (Goleman, pg.19). 

From any perspective, you look at it; I have come to see how relevant emotional intelligence is not just culturally, but even on a very personal level. But truth be told, I have not arrived in this area and have a tremendous level of growth to mature into. In fact, one of the things the Lord highlighted to me to focus on in 2020 is this area in conjuncture with grace. First, I need to rest deeply in God’s grace and even show myself more grace; while extending more grace to others. Paul, once again, says to young Timothy, You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1). Thank God we are not called to be strong in ourselves or our own giftedness, but God’s undeserved and unmerited favor! 

There are so many areas in our lives we all need to grow in when it comes to emotional/relational intelligence. From the way we communicate on social media, to the ways we treat our spouse, children or family; to how we interact with one another; we live in a time when emotions are high, conflict is great, division is strong, and political rhetoric is more driven by anger, fear and outrage than anything else. As followers of Christ, we are called to a higher standard; a standard that reflects the very character, holiness and wholeness of God himself. May God gives us all, beginning with me, more grace!

Works Cited:

Barison. J. (2018). EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence. Borough Hall, Germany.

Goleman, D. (1998). Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York, New York: Bantman Book.