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9780801019449Around the turn of the millennium I read Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence. This is a subject I’ve wanted to think about more, but never seem to get to. The kids’ movie, Inside Out, is an application of the theory to a young girl’s life as she deals with loss after moving across country for her father’s new job. I’ve pondered this as a parent and a pastor who sees many struggle with a lack of emotional intelligence (EQ).

Aubrey Malphurs, a seminary professor who has written a number of books on church planting and leadership, has released a new book entitled Developing Emotionally Mature Leaders. I thought this would potentially be a good resource as I hope to develop greater EQ among our congregation’s leaders.

Malphurs wrote this book because he saw many gifted students leave for the mission field or church planting to return beaten because the team “couldn’t get along.” He believes that greater EQ would help these team members address the conflicts which arise in a much healthier way so those missions could continue and thrive.

“Simply stated, the purpose of this book is to come up with a process or pathway that challenges Christian leaders to become more away of, understand, and manage their emotions and those of others so that they can be emotionally mature leaders who relate well with and truly inspire their followers.”

Simply stated, the purpose of his book is addressed from page 99 onward. That is about 42 pages addressing his model for development followed by about 60 pages of appendices with various exercises.

Part 1 is three short (!) chapters (34 pages total, with lots of white space and questions at the end of each chapter) which introduce EQ. In some ways it reads like a syllabus. It conveys a brief history of EQ and conveys the importance of EQ, particularly among leaders. IQ deals with how you learn. EQ is about how you relate. Successful leaders are able to learn and relate well. There isn’t much to say about this section except that you get the feeling that this isn’t necessarily a unified theory. There are some disagreements in the field which become more apparent in Part 2.

“I define emotional intelligence as an awareness of our emotions and the emotions of others around us so that we can handle well our emotions and theirs (especially the harmful ones), with the result that we relate in a Christlike manner with those within or outside the body of faith.”

Part 2 helps people to understand EQ. He defines it, defines emotions, lays out the primary core emotions and then puts forth a biblical theology of emotions. This is the heart of the book which prepares you for his own model for assessment and development. Here we see the differences the theories have with regard to core emotions. They are kind of slippery, those emotions.

Malphurs brings us into the nature vs. nurture debate. Some theorists lean toward nature (so if you don’t have it, forget about having it) and others toward nurture. He fails to conclusively address this. He says it is perhaps both but doesn’t explain why. I found this to be a frequent problem with the book: he makes assertions but doesn’t provide any sufficient rationale for those assertions.

He also mentions that emotions shouldn’t be confused with temperament, moods, IQ, and feelings. He covers this in a page. I’m all for succinct but this is too brief since this seems to confuse people. They need some hooks to hang the information.  He then moves on to the next quagmire.

“However, emotion is one of the most difficult concepts in psychology to define and understand completely. … I define an emotion as a unique, unplanned urge to love, hate, or express some other feeling that happens subjectively, subconsciously, or physiologically and is directed externally toward a person or thing.”

As a soft science, psychology can be more difficult to express and quantify. I have a degree in counseling, I get it. But in theology, another “soft science” if you will, we make distinctions. It is all about distinctions. Malphurs appears to consistently contradict himself, perhaps because he’s not making distinctions. Emotions are different from feelings (chapter 4) but … we see here that they are connected somehow since they are the urge to express a feeling. Quagmire. He doesn’t really differentiate beyond feelings are physiological as opposed to mental though he brings that into his definition. He is less than clear on this, as well as the difference between an attribute or an emotion. Attributes always exist, while emotions (the root of feelings?) change. He thinks love is a core emotion (an unplanned urge), but also calls it an attribute. Later he writes “Anger is an attribute of God.” and “Anger is an attribute of Christ.” So, God is characterized by anger? I really struggled with this section since he appears to confuse/conflate categories. In his chapters on a biblical theology of emotions he repeatedly does this and never really grapples with divine simplicity and impassability as well as possible anthropomorphisms. He simply calls those who minimize emotions Christian stoics. There is more theology that needed to be done here, but once again he simply makes assertions without proving his point.

Some of his polarities seem off as well. “Hope is the opposite of fear.” I tend to see hope as the opposite of despair which is quite different from fear. Malphurs seems to create more confusion than clarity on these issues.

When he got to his model I noticed another glaring weakness: he neither addresses nor even mentions Ken Sande’s work on relational wisdom. I became aware of Sande’s work in this area a few years ago, so surely this newly published work should mention it particularly since he mentions a variety of secular theorists and tools. Malphur’s model has 4 skills, while Sande’s has 6. The difference? Sande brings in God explicitly so that we evaluate our emotions and how we manage them in light of how God responds to such circumstances. Malphur’s model has some use, but since the book intends to transform ministry, this missing piece would seem essential. It also provides a grounding factor to escape subjectivity regarding our emotions. How do I know if they are helpful/unhelpful, appropriate/inappropriate unless there is some standard outside of myself? God is the one who speaks to that and we should be skilled in discerning that too.

I wanted great things from this book. Perhaps my expectations were too high. But there were some serious flaws in this book. At times there are conflicting statements (at least on the surface, but he doesn’t clarify), there are many unproven assertions, some straw man arguments and serious theological gaps. He seemed bent on getting to his model and cut to the chase. I understand that leaders tend to avoid long books, but to adequately develop a skill you need to adequately understand some theory. Theory got the short end of the stick here, making the skills questionable as well.

[I received a copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of review.]

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Because introverts can experience pressure to change, or be shamed by others, or even participate in self-recrimination, Adam McHugh has a chapter on Finding Healing in his book Introverts in the Church.

I’ll confess, I struggled with this chapter. At least the early parts. He begins with the words of Veronica who hopes that God’s glory might be displayed through her introversion, “not in spite of it.” That latter sentiment is how many feel; that their introversion is a flaw that hopefully won’t prevent God from using them. Introverts wrestle with self-doubt, often having received the messages of others which are critical of them.

“In an extroverted culture, introverts can become the silent screens onto which others project their insecurities.”

Psychological projection is a real thing, and introverts are often victims of this. People can project the worst possible reasons onto you for being quiet- arrogant, angry, independent etc.

“Living as an introvert in a society and a church that exalts extroversion takes its toll, and shame cuts deep into introverted psyches that are bent toward self-examination.”

I know what some of you may be thinking: snowflakes. That would be the point. You can’t see the wounds and think they don’t exist or cut deeply. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Just yesterday I told someone I’m highly self-critical. If I took Mondays off I’d probably destroy myself going over my sermon repeatedly and finding the mistakes, things I forgot to say, illustrations that didn’t seem to connect etc. in my sermon. It may have been a perfectly good sermon used by God in the lives of His people for exaltation, edification and evangelism but I can go on a personal crusade to evaluate each second of it. Many introverts, seemingly inactive, are busy re-living their moments in society discovering each moment they didn’t live up to the expectations of others or themselves.

McHugh spoke to 50 introverts (not a great sample size) but 49 of them expressed feeling reproached and maligned for being introverted. Because we internalize emotions, introverts are at a higher risk for depression according to psychologist Laurie Helgoe.

“While extroverts commonly feel loneliness when others are absent, introverts can feel most lonely when others are present, because ours is the aching loneliness of not being known or understood.”

He recounts the story of Mike whose introversion affected his experience of education. He didn’t participate much. When he didn’t he didn’t think quickly on his feet. People thought he was stupid. He got low grades due to the participation component. He works extra-hard as an adult to over-compensate. He develops expertise in a number of subjects so he won’t feel humiliated. He fights the fear of others thinking he’s stupid. Sound stupid? Yeah, but this is what sinners can do with those moments they have been humiliated. I’ve done it.

“The challenge lies in distinguishing between the healthy components of our personalities, those that are natural and to be celebrated, and the coping mechanisms that are the symptoms of our wounds.”

Making distinctions matters. Doing that can be difficult. It gets to who am I by nature and how have I coped with the pain of life. “Healing” is addressing those wounds so we can be free of the coping mechanisms. But is that always a good thing? Is the coping mechanism part of what makes one useful to God? I think of J.I. Packer who suffered a head injury as a child. As a result he couldn’t play sports and spent time in the library. After he conversion he became one of the great theologians of the 20th century. It is hard to say whether or not that happens apart from the accident. Do I love to read simply for the sake of reading, or am I still coping with a clear childhood memory of being “exposed” for not knowing who BTO was? I didn’t want to be humiliated again (more about my expectations than the reaction of the adult who asked trying to know me better). If you take that away do you take away my tools as a pastor? Difficult to say. But some introverts may ponder that for weeks while extroverts will just move on with a shrug.

He notes that there are two kinds of retreat. The retreat born of fear of engagement, and the retreat born of preparation to engage. The former seeks to avoid the pain of life and relationships, the latter is to gain strength to engage the world outside with “greater perspective and peace.” The former is about being captive to your wounds. The latter is about service to others.

He then moves to the shyness cycle. Introversion and shyness are not the same thing. “Introversion is a natural personality trait where we go inside ourselves to process our experiences. Shyness, on the other hand, is a condition marked by fear or extreme anxiety in social situations.” Shyness is the result of wounds, in other words. You got whacked and are reluctant to get whacked again.

“Introverted wounds bleed in our minds and hearts, and bleed out in our behaviors, actions and relationships.”

McHugh starts to talk about the process of healing. If the wound is internal, you have to “journey” inside. But the healing, like for a physical wound that is infected, comes from the outside. Community and interpersonal relationships are important but not the essential element. He doesn’t quite say it, but to me it sounds like he’s speaking of union and communion with Christ as the source of true change. This is true of sanctification, and if this is a part of sanctification (putting our coping mechanisms to death and putting on new godly responses to life) then union & communion with Christ is the only source of true change for these wounds to our soul.

For instance, we shift our sense of identity to Christ. While we may be introverted, that should be not our identity. It is a data point, something to take into consideration but it can’t be the ruling factor in our lives. “I am a Christian, and called to participate in evangelization. How should I do that in keeping with how God made me?” is different than “I’m an introvert, do I still have to bear witness to Christ?”

Our union with Christ should also give us stability because it is an unchanging union. Through that union with receive the “double grace” of justification and sanctification. Status as accepted by God through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and God’s on-going work in us imparting the righteousness of Christ to us. This is not where McHugh explicitly goes, but seems to be what is lying behind his words or at least my interaction with them. We are safe & secure in Christ.

“Our hope is in his work of freeing us from the false ways we identify ourselves and conforming us to the nature of his Son.”

On the basis of this union we experience communion or fellowship with Christ. One aspect of this is to offer up our wounds to Christ, asking Him to heal them. We confess our coping mechanisms, our sinful response to our pain, to Him and asking Him to help us disentangle ourselves from these sins.

Their is also the outward journey that must take place as we learn to love. To be conformed to Christ is to love others. If God is love (and He is as an eternal community of love), the summary of the law is love (and it is) then we are doubly called to love. And He will work in us to make us loving. Love requires relationship. This doesn’t mean becoming extroverted, but it does mean actively pursuing the well-being of others at cost to yourself. This includes being vulnerable. We take the wounds & sins we have entrusted with Jesus and share them with a few people (not everyone you meet) who love you and you trust.

We will grow in emotional intelligence, also called relational wisdom. This means not only having personal awareness but also social awareness. We are able to process our feelings, and read social situations. This encompasses both the inward and outward journeys necessary for us to become fully like Christ (don’t worry, the extroverts really struggle with the inward one).

In this chapter McHugh realizes that your experience of introversion is not pure. It has been affected by sin and misery. You are bent inward by sin. You’ve been hurt by others. You’ve put unrealistic expectations on yourself. To be a healthy church member (and for the church to be healthy), you do need to change and address the pain & sin (as one of my supervisors used to say with great frequency) of your life that shape you and your experience of introversion. So, this chapter forms a necessary hinge before exploring what a healthy spirituality looks like for introverts.

 

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Football is a game for men- tough men.  Unlike many American males, I don’t lie to myself and others.  I could not play that game professionally.  It requires a physical toughness that I lack.  It also requires an emotional toughness that I am familiar with as a pastor.  In football, you have to deal with the emotional aspects of the game- remaining consistent when there are great hills and valleys.  Remaining stable in the face of constant obstacles.

Enter Jay Culter, the pouting All-Pro.  Jay can’t seem to understand that Pro Football is a business.  The goal is two-fold: compete to win the SuperBowl consistently, and make lots of money in the process.  The closer you are to the first, the easier it is for a team to accomplish the second.  As a result, the business-side, just like the game-side, is not easy on a person’s ego.  During the game, fans might boo you.  And during the off-season you might be linked with trade rumors.

Jay can’t imagine that the Broncos might entertain offers for a QB that 1. his new coach knows, and 2. had a better QB rating than he did.  Yes, Cutler had a record setting season.  But his team folded in the crunch (Cassel’s team when on a strong run that would have earned them a playoff spot in most divisions).  As QB, some of that falls on his shoulders.

But Cutler is pouting and demanding a trade- feeling so unwanted.  He’s is proving that they should have traded him.  First, he lacks the mental/emotional toughness required to flourish in professional football.  Trade possibilities have sent him into an epic, public freefall.  He just gave fans on other cities ammo with which to bait him and boo him.  Second, he is more concerned with himself than team.  This doesn’t sit well with any associated with the Patriots and their success over the course of this decade.  Individuals play, but only teams can win.  Teams are made of people who believe “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one” to quote the fictitious Spock from The Wrath of Kahn.  Cutler is focused on himself.  Not a good sign.  He demands his ego get stroked instead of submitting his ego to the needs of his team.  He also refuses to see that a few teams WERE really interested in him (I’m not sure why at this point).

Jay needs to take his meltdown where it belongs- behind closed doors- or no team will want him, including the one he’s on.  And while he’s there he may want to invest in some Daniel Goleman books on emotional intelligence.

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