“Not education. Not experience. Not knowledge or intellectual horsepower. None of these serve as an adequate predictor as to why one person succeeds and another doesn’t. There is something else going on that society doesn’t seem to account for. We see examples of this every day in our workplaces, our homes, our churches, our schools and our neighborhoods. We observe supposedly brilliant and well-educated people struggle, while others with fewer obvious skills or attributes flourish. And we ask ourselves why? The answer almost always has to do with this concept called emotional intelligence… And by now, it’s not exactly a secret. People have been talking about emotional intelligence for a while, but somehow they haven’t been able to harness its power. After all, as a society we continue to focus most of our self-improvement energy in the pursuit of knowledge, experience, intelligence and education. This would be fine if we could honestly say we had a full understanding of our emotions, not to mention the emotions of others, and an understanding of how our emotions influence our lives so fundamentally every day” (Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, pp. xv-xvi).
Intelligence has been defined as your ability to learn. I would add, your IQ is how fast your brain is able to grasp and process new information. Some say that this ability does not change over your lifetime. One definition of “personality” is your stable style and is a result of our preferences. If I understand it right, “emotional intelligence” or “awareness” is being aware of:
- How our emotions affect our thinking and decision making.
- Being aware of and picking up on the emotions of others. Watching people, reading them, understanding when they are sad, stressed or angry. Being a good listener (James 1:19), and not talking over people.
- Being very aware of how our words and actions affect others.
The Bible does not use the terms “awareness” or “emotional intelligence” and yet long before these terms were coined the Bible had already discussed the topic at length.
- “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
- “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
- “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
- This last verse is a reminder of the little servant girl who had been taken captive from the nation of Israel and was serving in the household of Naaman, who took the time and care to let the family know about someone who could heal the head of the house (2 Kings 5:2-3).
- “Live with your wives in an understanding way… show her honor” (1 Peter 3:7).
- When it comes to “awareness” I think of Joseph, who even thought he was in prison, falsely accused and away from his family, he noticed the mood of two other prisoners (Genesis 40:6 “When Joseph came to them in the morning and observed them, behold, they were dejected”).
God and Our Emotions
Often the Bible cautions us when it comes to relying upon or following our emotions:
- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
- “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25).
- “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26).
- “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (James 1:14).
- “For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
Obviously there are many good reasons why God has placed a large caution sign around our emotions, and here is today’s reason, one that I just discovered.
“Our brains are hard-wired to give emotions the upper hand. Here is how it works: everything you see, smell, hear, taste and touch travels through your body in the form of electric signals. These signals pass from cell to cell until they reach their ultimate destination, your brain. They enter your brain at the base near the spinal cord, but must travel to your frontal lobe (behind your forehead) before reaching the place where rational, logical thinking takes place. The trouble is, they pass through your limbic system along the way – the place where emotions are produced. This journey ensures you experience things emotionally before your reason can kick into gear” (Emotional Intelligence 2.0, p. 6).
The Good News
Just like the Bible says, we can control our emotions and develop greater emotional intelligence, awareness, or what some might call “wisdom”.
- If you were not born with a huge processor (IQ) that is okay. “When emotional intelligence was first discovered, it served as a missing link in a peculiar finding: people with the highest levels of intelligence outperform those with average IQ’s just 20 percent of the time, while people with average IQ’s outperform those with high IQ’s 70 percent of the time. This anomaly threw a massive wrench into what many people had always assumed was the source of success – IQ” (Emotional Intelligence 2.0, p. 8).
- I find this demonstrated in the example of Naaman the leper. When Elisha the prophet gives Naaman a cure for his leprosy that did not meet the initial expectations of Naaman, he was furious and was prepared to leave without doing something very simple to be healed (2 Kings 5:10-12). Naaman’s servants, who might not have been as talented and gifted as he was, demonstrated the wisdom that was truly necessary in this area (5:13). This is a good example of where our pride, preconceived ideas and emotions can get in the way and where we can become our own worst enemy.
The Advantage of the Gospel
Speaking to a secular audience the writer noted, “We enter the workforce knowing how to read, write, and report on bodies of knowledge, but too often, we lack the skills to manage our emotions in the heat of the challenging problems that we face. Good decisions require far more than factual knowledge” (p. 14). Also, more information is not the key to wisdom.
- The advantage of being a Christian or being raised by Christians is that much of the emphasis is on becoming unselfish, considering the needs of others, being aware of how our actions and words affect situations and other people (Proverbs 15:1).
- Solomon noted that there will be an endless supply of books to read in life (12:12), and yet there is something far more important than reading all the best sellers. That is respecting your Creator, listening to and obeying Him (12:13-14).
- We are surrounded by hurting, confused, and misguided lost souls (Matthew 9:36).
- Our words can instantly change a situation for the better or the worse (Proverbs 12:18; Ephesians 4:29 “the need of the moment”).
- Our verbal outbursts and acts of anger are being observed.
- If we allow our emotions to rule us, our IQ or education will not prevent us from becoming fools (Proverbs 16:32; 25:28).
- How we present the gospel to others is important (1 Peter 3:15).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017