How is your EQ?

You have heard of IQ. Have you also heard of EQ? Daniel Goldman coined the term “emotional intelligence” to describe your awareness of your own and other’s emotions and your capacity to respond appropriately. Church leaders with higher EQ are able to identify their own internal response to triggers and to respond with empathy when others are triggered than those with lower EQ. Unfortunately, many Christians have been taught that emotions are bad while thinking is prized above all. This attitude overlooks the fact that we serve a God who is comfortable with His own emotions: 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). Viewing emotions as bad also 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:

  1. 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 emotion (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?
  2. 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 was that your feelings are bad or dangerous. Such ministry leaders have shut out awareness of their emotional life. 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. To begin to peek into your emotional life, begin to take 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, back aches, muscle aches, etc. Can you begin to keep track of what happens in your body when you are facing a situation that is challenging?
  3. 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 the 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?
  4. Invite trustworthy others 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?
  5. Invest in the challenge. You will need strength and 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?

Jeannie Clarkson, The Emotionally Intelligent Pastor: A Guide for Clergy and Other Church Leaders. Indianapolis, IN: The Wesleyan Publishing House.

Daniel Goldman,  An introduction to Emotional Intelligence. Goleman’s 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence, was the catalyst for introducing the concept of emotional intelligence to the wider culture.

Peter Scazzero, “Know Yourself That  You May Know God,” chapter 2 in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

Management 3.0,  Emotional Intelligence Module

Mind Tools, Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Emotional contributor: Virginia T. Holeman, PhD., LMFT, LPCC, Retired Chair of the Department of Counseling and Pastoral Care, Asbury Theological Seminary
Executive editor: Russ Gunsalus
Curator of content: Dave Higle