Have you ever thought about the fact that we serve a God who is comfortable with His own emotions? Think about it! Our God takes delight in His creation (Gen. 1); He is jealous (Ex. 20:5); He loves (Jer 31:3); He can become angry (Jer 30:24). As you read Scripture you’ll find a broad range of emotion, and we begin to see emotions are not bad. Those who are willing to enter into a better understanding of emotions will actually have a broader ability to minister to others.
We tend to focus a lot on IQ, but how would you rate your EQ?
Daniel Goldman coined the term “emotional intelligence” (EQ) to describe the awareness of your own and others’ emotions as well as your capacity to respond appropriately. Church leaders with higher EQ are better able to identify their own internal responses to triggers and respond with more empathy when others are triggered.
Traditionally, Christians have the tendency to view emotions as “bad.” But this neglects a truth about humans–we are created in God’s image so we, too, feel.
Here are five points to consider that can help improve your EQ:
Improve Your Emotional Vocabulary.
Researchers have identified eight main families of emotions: anger, sadness, fear, enjoyment, love, surprise, disgust/contempt, and guilt/shame. Within each of these families, you can find a range of emotions (e.g., annoyed→anger→enraged). One of the first steps for improving your EQ is to become intellectually familiar with emotion words. With an improved vocabulary, you can begin to ask yourself, “What am I feeling at this moment?” How rich is your emotional vocabulary? Can you name the emotions you feel?
Increase Your Emotional Awareness.
Some readers might be saying: “I don’t know what I am feeling” or “Feelings are not my thing.” These comments would be typical for pastors who have been taught by their family of origin to NOT express feelings. The family message taught that feelings are bad or dangerous. Such ministry leaders have consequently shut out awareness of their emotional lives. But emotions do not go away. They burrow under your awareness and pop out when you aren’t looking. You cannot begin to regulate what you are not aware of. So, begin by looking into your emotional life, by taking note of what is happening in your body. All emotions first register their presence physiologically. If you stuff your emotions, you may instead experience headaches, backaches, muscle aches, etc. Can you begin to keep track of what happens in your body when you are facing a situation that is challenging?
Involve God In Your Emotional Life.
God already knows what you are feeling. He is neither surprised nor afraid of your emotions. He welcomes you to bring your whole self to Him, including your emotional self. Begin by sitting in silence before or after your prayer time with the Father. Let God bring to your awareness your bodily sensations, and offer to God whatever emotions seem to be associated with those sensations. Your emotions may rise and fall like ocean waves. Bring them all to the Lord. If you don’t know where to start, try praying the Psalms. Can you begin to incorporate your emotional self in your devotional time?
Invite Trustworthy People To Journey With You.
Embarking on an exploration into uncharted emotional territory is a daunting task. It is a journey that requires safe and trustworthy companions. Your companions should include someone who has already walked the emotional road upon which you are stepping. These companions could be a senior ministry leader, a licensed mental health professional, a spiritual mentor, etc. Can you name at least one person who could be your partner on this journey?
Invest In The Challenge.
You will need strength, courage, endurance, and perseverance. You will be tempted to abandon the road because it will be hard at times. Expect to change and to be changed. The more of your emotional self you surrender to God, the more of your life you have available to serve Him. What obstacles stand in your way of beginning this journey?