I’m sure you have known someone that is deeply religious, but with deeply entrenched problems in their personal, professional, or relational lives. It can be hard to understand why someone with a sincere faith is struggling with major behavioral or personal issues. Especially when that “someone” is us! We may even be questioning our own faith if we struggle with bouts of anxiety or depression. The question comes up, if we have faith, does that mean that our emotional intelligence, basically a measure of mental health, is better?
If you’re not familiar, a quick definition of emotional intelligence involves four parts:
1. The ability to identify emotions in myself,
2. The ability to manage emotions in myself,
3. The ability to identify emotions in others,
4. The ability to manage emotions in others.
Your experience at GrowthSkills is basically training in emotional intelligence, integrated with our Christian faith. There has been tons of research on emotional intelligence and how it relates to success in life, whether that success is financial, relational, or just a deep sense of fulfillment and living on purpose.
So that begs the question, “Where Is EQ in the Bible?” Certainly the terms “emotional intelligence” and its sister “mental health” were not part of biblical culture. But we only need to look at the greatest commandment, Matthew 22:37: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” That pretty much sums it up, combining the elements of emotional, spiritual, and mental health.
Our heart holds our emotions, Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our heart, because from it flows everything we do. The basics of boundaries. We love from our heart and we mourn from our heart. When we are deeply connected to our own hearts, we know what we feel and can ask for what we need. When our hearts are connected to others, we have more compassion for others’ experiences and can draw out the best in them. A heart of gratitude helps us to accept life’s challenges, while celebrating the little ways God shows up for us every day.
A heart that has been betrayed suffers greatly, driving us to understand how we can guard our precious vulnerability. When a heart is sick with grief and despair, it needs comfort and closeness both from the Lord and from close relationships. That’s why we all need a life team of safe people.
Our mind is the battleground of our mental health. If I’m clouded with catastrophizing, it’s hard to stay in praise. If I have running thoughts of vengeance and punishment, it’s hard to love my neighbor. If the critical judge inside my head is renting space in all of my thoughts, I end up beaten down and unable to understand my needs or the true intentions of others. Being free to shift and direct my own thoughts is the heavy-lifting of emotional intelligence, as loving God with all my mind requires a mind that is free to choose where it focuses.
And finally, the care of our soul is where our faith intersects with the love of God. Pastors, spiritual directors, other committed Christians are all part of our learning journey of how we grow and foster a soul into one that lives with the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control. Sounds like a recipe for supernatural, God-inspired emotional, spiritual, and mental intelligence.
And finally, if you’re wondering about that answer to our first question, it’s “yes.” Research shows that those with an authentic faith built on the love of God and neighbor have higher EQ. But more importantly, high EQ leads to a life of life of peace and contentment, to be experienced in our own hearts and shared into the hearts of those we love, serve, and lead.
Dr. Michele Fleming is a facilitator for GrowthSkills, a Director of the Townsend Leadership Program, a psychologist, wife, and mother. If you want to grow your EQ, you can reach her at www.drmichelefleming.com or firstname.lastname@example.org