Emotional Intelligence: The ABCs of Emotions
Part 10: Holding Onto Hope
Introduction: You’re reading Part 10 in a blog mini-series on Emotional Intelligence. Read Part 1: Emotions: God’s Idea, Part 2: Why We Feel What We Feel, Part 3: Good News about Good Moods, Part 4: What Went Wrong?, Part 5: Our Emotions and Our Bodies, Part 6: How’s Your EI?, Part 7: Become an Emotional Mentor, Part 8: Emotions Gone Mad, and Part 9: What’s Wrong with Stuffing Our Feelings? I’ve developed this series from material in my book Soul Physicians.
Nancy Guthrie’s Story
When Nancy Guthrie endured the death of her two babies to Zellweger Syndrome, she was tempted to anesthetize her feelings. Ponder her testimony after her second child, Hope, died.
“The day after we buried Hope, I understood for the first time why so many people choose to medicate their pain in so many harmful ways. That day I tried to sleep it away. And in the days that followed, I discovered that I could not sleep it away, shop it away, eat it away, or travel it away. I just had to feel it. And it hurt. Physically. I realized I had a choice—I could try to stuff the hurt away in a closet, pretend it wasn’t there, and wish it would disappear, or I could bring it out into the open, expose it to the Light, probe it, accept it head-on, trudge through it, feel its full weight, and do my best to confront my feelings of loss and hopelessness with the truth of God’s Word at every turn” (Guthrie, Holding Onto Hope: A Pathway Through Suffering to the Heart of God, p. 12).
Nancy lives poetically. Nancy knows how to grieve, but not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Nancy models for us mood reorder—she shows how our salvation in Christ brings wholeness and holiness to our emotions.
Emotional Maturity: Alive to Life
In Christ, we are enlivened to honestly experience life in all its grief and hope. We are not ashamed of our emotionality. We don’t consider emotions the “black sheep of the image bearing family.” We don’t hide from our feelings. We are alive to life in all its external vicissitudes and internal joys and sorrows.
What a reversal from our fallen emotionality where we feared feeling anything deeply, honestly, and ended up living for shallow emotional highs and avoiding personal pain at all cost. We practiced either: emotional stoicism (repressing our moods) or emotional sensationalism (expressing moods without control or concern for others).
The Bible teaches that mature emotionality enables us to face our feelings and manage our moods. We learn candid honesty with ourselves about our feelings. Like Jeremiah, we identify our mood states, “My soul is downcast within me” (Lamentations 3:20).
We learn to courageously express our feelings to our heavenly Father and to soothe our soul in our Savior. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
We learn to bring rationality to our emotionality. “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27).
Emotional maturity should permeate every aspect of our new person in Christ.
• Spiritually, we can soothe our soul in our Savior.
• Socially we can, empathize with others, helping them find God’s sustaining comfort and healing hope.
• As self-aware beings we can admit, understand, accept, and manage our moods.
• Rationally, we can bring rationality to our emotionality by understanding with wisdom the causes and nature of our feelings, and by envisioning with spiritual eyes imaginative ways to handle our moods.
• Volitionally, we can consciously and courageously choose to creatively respond to our emotional mood states.
Of All People…
Of all people, Christians should be the most emotionally mature—for all the reasons mentioned above. Yet, often Christians seem to be the least emotionally mature and the most emotionally tone-deaf.
Which of us hasn’t shaken our head in dismay, disbelief, discouragement, and disappointment after an interaction with a Christian leader who just doesn’t get it emotionally? And, if we’re honest, which of us hasn’t shaken our head in dismay at our own emotional immaturity?
Christians tend to be kindergartners when it comes to emotional maturity. We’ve barely learned the “ABCs” of emotional intelligence. That’s why I’ve sub-titled this blog mini-series (okay, not so “mini” anymore!) The ABCs of Emotions. That’s why we need…The Rest of the Story.
The Rest of the Story
Here’s what we’ll learn in our upcoming posts on The ABCs of Emotions:
• A: How are our emotions and mood states of value to us?
• B: How are our emotions and mood states of value to others?
• C: How can we practice the hallmarks of emotional maturity?
Join the Conversation
Why do you think Christians struggle with emotional maturity?