The Beginning of Wisdom… in Relationships

The Beginning of Wisdom… in Relationships

As Christians, when we think wisdom we typically think: Proverbs. Rightfully so, and for many years I had a habit of reading the chapter in Proverbs which corresponded to the date, which meant I read through the entire book of Proverbs almost every month (some months don’t have 31 days…). It was a good practice and even though I read each chapter every. single. day., I still found unexpected nuggets of truth every time I read through a chapter. I never memorized the book by mere repetition – I repeatedly stumbled upon ideas I had not really digested.

Scripture is like that. The Holy Spirit is like that. By spending deliberate time in God’s word, the Spirit can open our hearts to see the areas where we still harbor idols, still live in shame, still insist on choosing our ways above God’s ways.

So when we want to understand wisdom, we head to Proverbs, right?

Proverbs is not the only place where nuggets of truth are tucked away.

Wisdom can be defined as “skill at living.” Biblical wisdom, then, is skill at living empowered and directed by the Spirit. The Bible tells us the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10; Psalm 111:10). And the Bible is full of instruction on what it means to fear the Lord, to know him, to walk in his ways, to grow in wisdom.

I have been personally convicted by the definition of biblical wisdom in the book of James.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. — James 3:13-18

Wisdom sows peace and harvests righteousness.

Do you see that? Wisdom sows peace and harvests righteousness. It follows that folly sows jealousy and selfish ambition and harvests disorder and vile practice.

If I have a choice between harvesting disorder or peace, I’d choose peace. If I have to choose between harvesting vile practices or righteousness, I’d like to choose righteousness. And the fruit of righteousness is wisdom: pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

I want to harvest righteousness. I want to be wise.

Wisdom must be cultivated.

It is not enough to throw down seeds of peace and walk away. We must choose a site well, tend the soil, water, and protect the tender shoots. We must weed out jealousy and selfish ambition that could choke wisdom before it grows to maturity. Then we need to take the fruit of our labor and choose another site, tend the soil….

Cultivating wisdom takes work, season after season. Cultivating wisdom requires understanding, perseverance, and tools.

Cultivating Wisdom Requires Tools

Wisdom begins with an awareness of who God is.

If we want to find wisdom, it begins with the fear of the Lord. Wisdom begins with an awareness of who God is, but continues through intentional engagement with him through his word by his Spirit.

If we want to live in wisdom we need to recognize jealousy and selfish ambition in ourselves so we can turn away from self and turn to God. Recognizing our jealousy and selfish ambition begins by being aware of the passions that are at war within us (James 4:1) and continues through intentional engagement with our hearts as we submit to God, resist the devil, draw near to God, cleanse our hearts through repentance, and humble ourselves before the Lord (James 4:7-10).

Sowing peace begins with an awareness of ourselves and others.

And if we want the wisdom from above to bear the fruit of righteousness in our relationships with others – which is the field where we sow peace – it begins with an awareness of others, an awareness that is possible only as we remain open to reason, impartial, and sincere. Then the wisdom from above continues through intentional engagement with others as we sow peace, respond gently, extend mercy, and serve others with the good fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23).

Harvesting righteousness is the fruit of Relational Wisdom.

This, my friends, is the essence of Relational Wisdom: learning to live out the biblical framework of being God Aware, God Engaging, Other Aware, Other Engaging, Self Aware and Self Engaging.

There is no place in scripture that fails to call us to see and understand the heart of God without also calling us to honestly evaluate our own hearts with respect to God and others.

I’ve spent the last few months talking about the arena of emotions – understanding and learning to train the emotions God hard-wired into our lives through physiological chemistry.

Friends, understanding and engaging our emotions is only the first step to growing in relational wisdom

If we aspire to live out the two great commandments: love God and love others (Matthew 22:36-40), if we are going to live according to the new commandment Christ has given us: love as I have loved you (John 13:34), we must see God, others, and ourselves with the eyes of the Spirit of God who lives within us and we must actively engage with what we find.

This idea is not new with me. This idea is not new with Ken Sande either, though he has done a fabulous job of articulating these biblical truths clearly through his ministry at Relational Wisdom 360. In reality, the entire Bible points to relationships as the proving ground of a heart submitted to God. From the garden in Genesis to the cross on Calvary to the wedding feast in Revelation, awareness of and engagement with God, ourselves, and others reveal the content and condition of our hearts.

awareness and engagement

So, are you brave enough to come on a journey with me?

Are you willing to look at the dynamics of biblical relational wisdom? Are you interested in learning how to use tools to sow peace in your relationships with God and others? Do you want to see victory over sin and live a life of repentance and righteousness?

The first part of our journey will be to explore a little more about what it means to be God aware and God engaging. Then we’ll take some time to look into understanding ourselves in light of the cross as well as opening our hearts to truly love others well. Finally, we’ll really get to work with some tools that will help us tease out how to practically apply the principles we see throughout scripture regarding the fear of the Lord and what it means to love God and love others as Christ loved us.

Comment below and let me know if you are ready. Invite a friend to come along.

It’s always easier to see success as you grow in a new skill if someone else joins you. All you need is a heart set on following Jesus where ever he leads… and to be subscribed to the JuliaQuillen.com blog.

Before we get started, if you’d like to review or catch up, here are the posts I’ve written about relational wisdom and emotions this year:

God Wrote the Book on Relationships

Unraveling Emotions

Emotions are Not the Enemy

We Were Created to Experience Emotions

Forever Starts Now

Emotions are Scary

Emotions Expose Idols

We Do What We Believe

The Truth Will Set You Free

We Do What We Believe

We Do What We Believe

I saw an info-graphic on Facebook a few years ago with a system to find happiness. It listed several things to tell yourself, like, “everything will be ok” and “things will get better” and “you are lovable” and “you are strong” and “you can do great things.” Then it summarized the concepts with “We believe what we tell ourselves.”

At first I skimmed past it. I’m not a big fan of positive-thoughts-are-your-salvation type thinking, but that last line caught me:

“We believe what we tell ourselves.”

That’s profound.

It is similar to something we tell our kids all the time in the Quillen house.

When our kids are having a hard time obeying, we ask them to speak truth into the situation. God’s truth.

we act according to what we believe to be true

Speaking the truth into the situation requires training.

When our kids are having a difficult time accepting our answer, “No. You may not have candy at 7:28 a.m.”

Or obeying an instruction,”You need to put away your game and get ready for bed.”

Or finding confidence for a challenging task, like introducing themselves to a new friend….

In moments like these, we tell them to speak truth into the situation. We train them to know they will do what they believe to be true.

How do we train our beliefs?

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

These words are so incredibly helpful to me as a mom because they free me to begin teaching my kids things in areas I do not have proficiency without feeling like a hypocrite. If you want to train your heart and mind, begin with others (not on others, but with them). Find someone to join you in the process. If you are a mom (or a teacher!), your kids are right there under your care and keeping needing the same thing & make great accountability partners. If you aren’t a mom, you likely have friends, siblings, co-workers, employees, or potential friends you could invite into this training program.

Start early. Start often.

With our kids we start when they are toddlers by asking them to recite, “My mommy and daddy love me, they take care of me, they choose good for me, so I can trust them,” when they don’t like a decision we’ve made. (We didn’t invent this series of truth statements, we read them in a book – but I cannot remember which one to give full credit. I’ve scanned ever so many of the books we’ve read through the years – when I find it I’ll make sure I let you know. If you know, please let me know!)

Let the process mature.

When they get a little older, we ask them to fill in some blanks. “I know my mommy and daddy love me because they ________ . My mommy and daddy take care of me by ________. My mommy and daddy choose good for me when they ________. So I can trust them now that they’ve told me to ________.”

We get some pretty fun answers to fill in these blanks – it can be very instructive about what speaks love to your kids. We hear things like, “because she makes my dinner” (acts of service); “plays games with me” (quality time); “gets me fun toys” (gifts); “hugs me” (physical affection); “tells me I’m good at encouraging others” (words of affirmation).

This practice also reveals whether they are really doing the heart-work you’re targeting. If a child says, “I know my mommy loves me because she makes me say this stupid stuff,” your child probably isn’t working on their heart. You can meet them there, pray with them for a repentant heart, for eyes to see sin as God sees sin. The “stupid stuff” comments are a teaching moment, too. The “stupid stuff” moments are another opportunity to help kids through real-world moments they’ll encounter their whole lives. Because, let’s be honest here, how often do we express irritation and defensiveness rather than repentance when we are confronted with our unbelief?

Shift the focus to God.

As parents, teachers, or role models, our job is to lay the groundwork for living under authority so the kids in our keeping learn how to live under God’s authority. The reality is we really won’t be there forever. Kids grow up. They move out. They establish lives of their own. Even if your relationships are great and open and they respect and seek your input, they will do a lot of life without you. If Jesus tarries, death with ultimately force the issue.

So, as they get even older, we send them to the Bible to draw some conclusions. We begin to transition from us being their ultimate authority, to God as the authority.

Oh, we’ve told them all along that we are their authority by God’s design. They know we are under authority, too. We’ve taught them that God’s one instruction to kids is to obey and honor their parents, so disobeying us is disobeying him. And we’ve instructed them, verbally, how learning to live under our authority is preparing them to recognize and live under God’s authority. But at some point, we have to make a definite transition to focusing on God rather than us. It begins with changing the mantra to: “I know God loves me because he ________. God takes care of me by ________. God has chosen good for me before when he ________. So I can trust him and obey him now as I ________.”

And now we begin to see what they’ve learned about living the repentant life. Changing the proper noun engages their hearts in a different way. What they really believe to be true about God starts to influence their choices in a different way than when they focused on the steward rather than the king.

It’s an important shift.

Encourage independent dependence.

Then we need to remove the training wheels. Just like teaching kids to ride bikes, when the training wheels come off, we’re still there to help. The goal is for them to enjoy the joy and freedom of riding alone. As we enter the teen years, we need to help our kids apply their faith without us. We need to remove the training wheels, offer instruction, and be there to help with the accidents. Then we need to celebrate as they move from shaky, fearful autonomy to smiling, joyful, look-mom-no-hands stunt riding.

By the time you have teens, you are increasingly aware of the brevity of their time under your roof. Even at 13, it’s just five years until they are moving out into a world where they have to make decisions, fight with their own sinful hearts, deal with a fallen world without you being there. Do you remember how fast they went from birth to five? The days crept, but the years leaped, right?

Well, at 13 that’s how long you’ve got left. If they are going to own their faith, it’s time to help them practice ownership. They need to learn to wrestle with God. They need to learn to do battle with their own sin. They need to learn how to recognize the battle, identify the enemy, and follow the Victor. They need instruction, they need care after missteps. They need us to celebrate their fearful first attempts and to delight in their willingness to take risks for the kingdom.

You get that, right? There’s a danger in teaching our kids to say with Jim Eliot, “you are immortal until your work is done.” We need to teach them to have confidence in God and to take risks based on His ability, not theirs. But that means there will be stunt-riding.

They won’t get there if you do the work for them.

So, in their teen years, we often say things like, “What has God done that could encourage you to obey right now?” or “Where in the Bible does God promise to ________?” or “Does the Bible have anything to say about how God has provided for others in this way? How does that change your perspective on ________?” or “If you believe ________ about God, how does that inform your choices about ________ right now?”

You need this, too.

In reality, I have been training myself, too. I find I often need to remind myself, “My Father in heaven loves me. My Father in heaven takes care of me. My Father in heaven chooses good for me. [I’ll admit that part is often the hardest to see]. So I can trust him as I ________.”

That last blank can be filled with daily things, like, “I can trust him as I discipline my kids with patience and grace instead of yelling which I know will get immediate results, but not long-term, God-honoring results.”

That last blank can also be filled with monumental things, like trusting him with the death of a baby, or letting go of a dream, or being called to minister in some place/way I would never choose for myself.

We have been training our kids (and ourselves) to tell themselves the truth of the Bible so that they can make good decisions in difficult circumstances. We have been training them to choose what they will believe when they encounter their feelings and confusing circumstances.

It’s never too late to start.

When we started this process with our kids, oh probably 7-8 years ago, I was right there with my youngest kids. My heart was not trained to recognize my Father’s love, to rest in his providential care, to accept his choices as good, or to trust him with his sovereignty. I still struggle – which is why I keep training.

I’ve talked with a lot of adults who, even in their 70s and 80s, struggle to walk by faith because their hearts are not trained to rest in Christ. Harsh or absent or indulgent parents have left many adults crippled in their ability to see God the Father as good, loving, kind, and trustworthy. Far too many of us accept God is ABLE, but doubt he is WILLING to do good. Or simply fail to see that what he ordains is good because it’s different that what we’d hoped for.

sovereignty divorced from goodness

Confidence in God’s sovereignty divorced from God’s goodness results in a lifestyle of duty driven by doubt that things will work out and fear of what God might do next.

Confidence in God’s constant presence, the goodness of his providential care, and his power to overcome sin and the effects of sin results in a lifestyle of faithfulness driven by gratitude and grace.

We must train our beliefs with truth if we want to act according to truth. We must cement truth in our minds and hearts so we will make choices informed by strong emotions that we have no reason to regret.

We do what we believe.

What we believe drives how we act.

Put another way, our actions reveal what we believe.

Writing this post has exposed a lot of areas in my own heart where I harbor lies, rehearse falsehood, replay failure, and live in fear. I need to repent. I need to search the scriptures to find truth. My heart needs to be reminded that God loves me, takes care of me, and is choosing good for me, so I will trust him in these challenging days.

What about you?

Take some time today to evaluate the choices you are making. What do they reveal about what you really believe? 

Do you act as though speaking truth in love is God’s way to reach the hearts of your children? Or do you act as though yelling is the way to accomplish good behavior?

Do you view interruptions to your day as divine appointments to engage the hearts of others for Christ? Or do you become impatient with the people who interfere with your plans for the day?

Do you continue doing what you know you are called to do with a heart full of fear that God is just sacrificing you like he did Jesus? Do you struggle to see God’s good providence in your current circumstances? Or does your heart cling to the promises in scripture and count it a blessing that God includes you in his plan to suffer for Christ?

Where is God revealing your unbelief?

I’d love to begin this with you. Comment below or email me directly. Let’s re-focus our hearts on the truth we profess. Let’s train our hearts together.

Emotions are Scary

Emotions are Scary

You know, before Adam and Eve sinned, they were naked and unashamed. Once they disobeyed, they hid in the garden because they were naked and afraid (Genesis 3:10).

I don’t think that concept is limited to clothing. Being exposed is scary. So we run and find something to cover our hearts and hide us from each other.

Do you realize Christ came to save us from that covering, too?

When we stand in Christ’s righteousness, God sees us clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Our sinfulness is stripped away and the nakedness and shame of our sinful hearts is covered. But I don’t think we realize his righteousness not only strips us of our sin before God, but also opens the way for baring our hearts in our relationships with others.

We stand in the righteousness of Christ before each other as well. The cross is very leveling in that way.

Yet we often forfeit the benefit of standing in righteousness before one another by hiding our emotions. We often forfeit the benefit of experiencing the full range of emotions we were created to experience without sin by clinging to a lie: emotions are somehow bad and should be hidden, suppressed, avoided {More on that here (We Were Created to Experience Emotions) and here (Forever Starts Now).}

One reason I think we often forfeit this benefit is because we are afraid. Truly, to feel the full weight of sorrow is not easy. To walk with eyes open to the pain clutched in the hearts of those around us is not easy.

Emotions are scary.

I know I clutch and hide pain in my own heart, believing, somehow, that keeping it hidden makes it less real. Pretending it’s not there does stifle the hurt, or fear, or regret, in a way (though not without consequences). And the very idea of taking it out to explore – especially with someone else – is terrifying. It’s also quite scary to dive into someone else’s emotion. Empathy – the ability to feel along with someone else – opens us up to feeling deep fear, anguish, and sorrow along with those we love. That is not easy!

Then there are all the positive emotions. I’m not sure we really know what to do with the full strength of joy, either. There is a fear which often holds us back from diving into pleasure, as if we think it is somehow not meant for us.

And what about hope? Oh! Hope is scary, too. What if we hope in something only to be disappointed?

I remember with our last baby, I was afraid to hope. We had lost two babies before that pregnancy and I didn’t dare hope this baby would survive because I didn’t think I could bear the pain of losing another one. My heart ached with the weight of learning to place my hope in Christ instead of the hope of a successful pregnancy. Hope became a matter of obedience for me, and it was scary.

Hope is a matter of obedience

What about love? Love can be frightening, too. Fear of rejection or being taken advantage of or manipulated… or losing a part of you to a love so deep you sacrifice for it. As much as choosing to love the unlovely is hard, accepting love strikes fear in the hearts of many, too. We tend to underestimate our eligibility to receive love and overestimate the obligation of being loved.

Part of the problem is the unknown.

We cannot really know the fullness of emotion outside of Christ, and having walked so long in the shadows, it is scary to come into the light. It is legitimate to be afraid to feel fully. That doesn’t make it legitimate to avoid it, any more than we should avoid anything else God has given us to enjoy or ignore any other instructions he has given us to obey.

God does give instructions regarding emotions.

Love as I have loved you (John 15:12); be angry and do not sin (Ephesians 4:26); care for orphans and widows (James 1:27); let bitterness, wrath, anger, and malice be put away (Ephesians 4:31); be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving towards one another (Ephesians 4:32). The list could go on and on.

We cannot claim to follow Jesus if we are consumed by fear of the emotions God gave us. Even if they are scary, we cannot be obedient to Christ and avoid emotions. We cannot live in rich relationships and ignore emotions. We must learn to embrace emotions – even the scary ones.

So… who are you hiding from?

Are you hiding from someone? Are you ignoring the unspoken feelings of someone else? Who do you need to approach today to explore the deep waters of your heart with today?

Do you harbor hidden fear or bitterness from your spouse? Do you cringe at the pain you see in the eyes of your children, parents, or friends? Are you ready to own the hidden fears, joys, and sorrows in your heart? OK, maybe we’re never really ready, but are you willing to begin an honest appraisal of what’s in your heart? Are you willing to repent of avoiding the gift of emotions and begin to move toward community or righteousness by honestly dealing with what is hidden beneath the surface of a pleasant countenance?

I’d love to hear about how God is prompting you to move toward righteousness and community by exposing and exploring what you are feeling! Comment below or send me a message so I can pray with and for you!

We Were Created to Experience Emotions

We Were Created to Experience Emotions

In the past couple of years, I have spent a fair amount of time reading books like Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ by Daniel Goleman and Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, along with a lot of medical abstracts, journal articles on the neurology and physiology of emotions, and studies about the chemical changes in the body connected with emotions. I am far from an expert, but I have begun to see a pattern emerging.

Though pretty much every published book or article out there right now has been written from an evolutionary perspective, the scientists and authors have discovered our bodies are wired for emotions. If we look at what they are discovering through their research through a biblical lens – from a creationist perspective – we see that God created us with this intricate system that connects the information take in through our various senses with chemicals (a.k.a. hormones) to our bodies. The physiological reaction to these hormones prepares our bodies to move. {Hence the name: emotion, which comes to us from Latin “to move.”}

At the end of the biblical creation account, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31).

It’s not a far leap in logic to realize if he created man in his own image, if he created man to experience emotions – which we are now discovering through modern technology – and if he saw everything he made and considered it very good, then emotions, as part of his creation and as part of his creation of man in his own image, are very good. Do you get that?

Emotions are very good.

Emotions are very good.

Somehow we’ve lost the idea of emotions being very good, and I think Satan is pretty happy (yes, that’s an emotion, too) about it.

Bottom line? We were created to experience emotions.

When we deny it, we lose.

Every time we take something God made and call it into question we lose.

Adam and Eve lost in the garden when they called into question the covenant God made regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Husbands lose when they call into question the authority God gave them to lead sacrificially, preferring and protecting their wife and children above themselves.

Wives lose when we call into question the order (not value) God gave in setting the husband as the head of the family.

Children lose when we take the honor God made for our parents and give it to ourselves (rebelling against authority) or others (caring for or accepting direction from others at the expense of caring for and honoring our parents).

Families lose when we call into question the emotions we were given to move us to righteousness by abusing one another with uncontrolled emotions, giving unbridled vent to rage, angst, fear, grief, or euphoria, pleasure, and passion.

Households lose when we call into question the emotions we were given to move us to community by forbidding emotions, which leads to an environment of emotional abandonment, withdrawal, shame, cheerlessness, lust, and emptiness.

As individuals we lose a little bit of what it means to be human when we strip the healthy experience of emotions from our lives.

Society loses a great deal of what it means to be a community and government loses a great deal of what it means to protect and defend life, when individuals become less human. Just look at the political sphere to find evidence of this!

The loss of empathy is a nail in the coffin of justice and mercy.

Loss of Empathy Kills Justice & Mercy

We have abandoned the Creator’s design with respect to emotions. As a result, the relationships for which we were created suffer; the worship we were created to give is hollow and empty. Without a healthy emotional life, we are less than what we were created to be – and now we have science to back up that fact.

The solution is not to suppress emotion and withdraw from others. The solution is to accept our emotions and to train them to move us into healthy relationships.

We don’t have to lose. Following God’s design and instruction always sets us up to win.

So where do you need to repent? Do you give free reign to your emotions, allowing unbridled fear, anger, or passion to trample the people around you? Do you suppress emotions through withdrawal, abandonment, and shame based upon how they (or you!) feel?

Take time today to think through one are where you are abusing emotions and stripping the image of God from yourself or others. Pray for wisdom about how to live out the image of God in a way that magnifies God’s glory rather than man’s sin. Then comment below or send me an email so I can pray for you as you grow in Christlikeness. I will pray for every single comment/email I receive.

Emotions are Not the Enemy

Emotions are Not the Enemy

I don’t know about you, but I know I often find myself fighting my emotions. Don’t get me wrong. I do think we need to control ourselves where emotion is concerned, but there is a difference between fighting to control emotion and fighting emotion itself. The first is an attempt to drive emotions on a constructive course. The second is an attempt to deny an essential component of being human – being made in the image of God. Denying emotions usually leads to destructive choices, resulting in damaged health and/or relationships.

Part of the problem is we have bought into a lie: emotions are bad, especially negative emotions (I wrote about that a bit last week). The truth is, emotions are not really the enemy.

Our sin is the enemy, always has been, always will be.

It is the sinful choices we make without evaluating our emotions and reigning them in with truth that are the enemy. Emotions should drive us – we are physiologically wired for emotions. Problems arise when we let our emotions drive our lives without directing them to the course we want to take.

Can you imagine what would happen if you tethered yourself to a dogsled in the wilderness of Alaska, but didn’t train the dogs who would pull it? The results would be disastrous.

People who race in the Iditarod need the dogs to drive the sled, but they don’t let them run wild with the sled careening along behind them. If you want to use a dogsled, you need dogs. You need strong dogs that are capable of withstanding extreme conditions. You need well-trained dogs if you are going to not only survive the arctic environment, but also arrive at the destination you choose. The point is, if you want to race in the Iditarod you want dogs. You want the dogs to be dogs. You just want dogs to be dogs that will stay on the course, follow your lead, and take you where you want to go.

If you want to live life well (and abundantly) you need emotions. You need strong emotions that are capable of withstanding extreme conditions. You need well-trained emotions if you are going to not only survive life in a broken, fallen world, but also arrive in the kind of relationships and circumstances you desire. If you want to win the race set before you (1 Corinthians 9:24, Philippians 3:14; Hebrews 12:1-2), you need emotions to be emotions, driving forces that move you to action. You just need emotions to be emotions which don’t take the sled off course. You need emotions trained to respond to the reins of truth and righteousness. You need emotions which move you where you want to go.

Emotions must be trained

 

Emotions are not the enemy.

Emotions are a great and untapped power capable of driving us toward righteousness and mercy or toward complete destruction of ourselves and others in our path. Our call is not to capture our emotions and stuff them into a dungeon, not is it to unleash them on others. Scripture talks about taking our thoughts captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), but it does not give a parallel instruction about taking (or making) emotional captives. Emotion is to be trained by truth.

Our calling is to take the raw strength of our emotions and train them to drive us to worship God in everything we do (Colossians 3:17, 23; Ephesians 6:7; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Our calling is to evaluate our emotions through the lens of scripture. Our calling is to encourage a rich emotional life that moves us to righteousness. Think horse whisperer instead of  POW camp commander.

The Danger of Unraveling Emotions

The Danger of Unraveling Emotions

Sometimes I wonder when emotions became the arch-enemy of strength. It’s an insult, isn’t it, for someone to declare, “She’s so emotional!”? Yet emotions are a significant part of what makes us uniquely human. And in typical fickle fashion, we are equally quick to insult folks who are completely emotionally unaware.

I recently ran across a Dilbert video poking fun at the stereotypical engineer, which highlights (with humor) the almost universal acceptance of the need for social skills. It’ll take less than two minutes to watch, and is worth the chuckle – especially if you know an engineer.

This causes us to laugh because it touches on the truth that unawareness of emotions leads to undeveloped social skills – something we’ve linked to pocket protectors and a calculator.

For the last quarter century the idea of Emotional Intelligence (EI) has been studied, pondered, debated, and lauded. Ideas originally received with skepticism have been supported by sound research. Emotional Intelligence became an accepted, and much talked about, component of an individual’s resume and portfolio during the job search. Businesses began including EI as part of their hiring strategy, realizing an emotionally competent individual was a better investment than a similar candidate with high technical intelligence and low social skills.

Yet with all the recognition of emotions and the importance of understanding, appreciating, and learning to live with them, emotions still get a bad rap. People who express their emotions are often dismissed as irrational and (over)sensitive. And while Emotional Intelligence became an important focus in Human Resources during the hiring phase, throughout the rest of the company, emotions remained a bit inconvenient. Emotional Intelligence seems to be fighting an uphill battle – one step forward, two steps back – because at some point in history, we redefined “strong men” as men without emotion other than anger (consider phrases like “real men don’t cry” and “never let them see you sweat”).

Somewhere along the way we forgot that men like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Winston Churchill, Walter Cronkite, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were not only strong and amazing leaders, but also experienced – and expressed – deep emotion. Indeed, their actions were often a direct result of their emotions, but not necessarily the result of unchecked emotions like we saw with leaders like Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini.

Stripping men (and by default women, since to be “emotional” was redefined as weakness) of their ability to understand, confront, and connect their emotions to right actions, has actually weakened humanity. One of the fibers woven into the essence of humanity is our ability to be moved into appropriate action by what we feel. (Incidentally, the word “emotion” comes from the Latin ēmovēre, to move (ex = out, movere = move, literally move out). When we divest people (men or women) of the essential fiber of emotions, it is like removing a strand from a cord; the whole person becomes weaker.

Emotional Intelligence research brought this to our attention, but did little to weave a healthy understanding of and relationship to emotions. Though we have begun to value people who are emotionally stable and to denounce those who we now consider toxic (because they either intentionally manipulate others or destroy others through ignorance), we have yet to embrace emotions and weave them back into our understanding of how to be fully human and live life well. We are ill equipped to manage our emotions and direct them onto a constructive course.

So what do we do?

Perhaps the first step is to realize that emotions are not the enemy. We need to learn how emotions are tied to our physiological make up – in other words, we were created to be emotional (not in a hysterical, irrational way, but to fully experience emotions). We must look at how Christ – fully God and fully man – experienced a wide range of emotions, and yet did not sin (Christ was not afraid of his emotions). And finally, we need to identify when our emotions are revealing idolatry vs. righteousness, so we can make choices empowered by emotions but directed in a constructive way toward what we hope to accomplish rather than make choices driven by unchecked emotion.

Starting next week, I’ll dig into each of these ideas in greater depth. Here’s the plan:

May 2 – Emotions are Not the Enemy

May 9 – We Were Created to Experience Emotions

May 16 – Forever Starts Now

May 23 – Emotions are Scary

May 30 – Emotions Expose Idols

June 6 – We Do What We Believe

June 13 – The Truth Will Set You Free

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I owe Ken Sande of Relational Wisdom 360 (www.rw360.org) a great debt for the many insights he has given to me on this topic through his seminars, training, and personal conversations. – See more at: http://rw360.org/