Search Results For "heart"

EQ of the Heart

Rebekah Simon-Peter —  March 27, 2017 — 1 Comment

When I teach emotional intelligence or EQ, I empower people to communicate in ways that bring out the best in those who frustrate heartthem the most.   But studies show that emotional intelligence goes much deeper than what we say or don’t say.  It’s more fundamental than how we hold our bodies or what we telegraph with our faces.  It turns out that EQ is coded into our cells and hardwired into our bodies.  Our hearts are at the center of this.

This is good news for churches.  It gives us yet one more way to help people connect the life of faith with faith in life.  And to expand the loving, peaceable Kingdom of God!

Scripture tells us that we are wonderfully and fearfully made.  A sense of wonder and awe is woven into our very beings.  Science is now revealing that the heart is at the center of this wonder and awe.

HeartMath Institute has been studying the heart and its rhythms for decades.  It turns out that the rhythm the heart beats is directly correlated to positive or negative feelings.  Negative feelings like frustration, anxiety, irritation and anger are correlated with ragged or jagged rhythms.  They lead to illness, emotional upset and other unsettled ways of being. Positive feelings like peace, contentment, compassion and joy are correlated with smooth, ordered, coherent rhythms.  The more coherent the heart rhythms, the more coherent the messages that are sent to the brain, the nervous systems and every other cell in the body. Coherent heart rhythms lead to clear thinking, unexpected problem solving and improved health.

A heart full of love and compassion, joy and peace has measurable impacts beyond that. Our hearts have a large electromagnetic field around them.  We can radiate distinct energies to the people, and pets, around us.  They pick up on these vibrations, which in turn, affects their heart’s coherence.

There is even evidence that our own individual coherence can impact the electromagnetic fields of the earth.  That our love can encircle the globe and create a peace that others can tap into. The bottom line is this:  It all starts within our own hearts.  Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when he said the Kingdom of God is within.

Loving God, neighbor and especially our own selves makes a difference.  And it’s never been more important.  This love impacts our spiritual well-being, our physical health, our key relationships.  It also impacts our neighborhoods, our societies, and the creation itself.  It contributes to a positive resiliency in the collective consciousness of the world.  It creates coherence in times of chaos.

This is affirmation for people of faith.  Here’s what it means:  The prayers we pray, the love we radiate, and the intentions we form have a real and lasting impact.  The actions we take that are grounded in love and compassion multiply.  The kindness we show to one another creates a measurable good.  Let us not grow weary in well-doing, church.  Let us craft bold visions of compassion and care that make manifest the love in our hearts.  The Kingdom is near indeed.

“They want me to preach a three-point sermon, finish worship within an hour so they can beat the Baptists to breakfast, and not make any the elderly man prays in the churchchanges they don’t first approve. Above all not to push them.”   Ruth sighed, deeply discouraged. This Native American pastor is a strong leader: compelled by vision, in tune with the Gospel, led by love. “I thought things were going so well,” she continued. “But then they told my district superintendent how they really felt.” She shook her head, eyes not meeting mine. “I’m not sure my leadership style really works here. Actually, I think it’s because I’m Native American. And female.”

“Girl,” I said, “It’s not you.  It’s them. Don’t take this personally.”

How do I know? I had a similar conversation with Veronica, a skilled and talented African-American female pastor. Almost word for word. She, too, took it personally. It’s hard not to. I told her the same thing I said to Ruth.

As both of these conversations unfolded, echoes sounded from my own past. Previous congregants once said the same kinds of things to me. Yes, I’m female. But I’m neither Native American nor African American. But here’s what all three of us have in common: we each serve(d) congregations in the life-stage of retirement.

When a church reaches the retirement stage of development, a living vision is a thing of the past. Dreams of the future no longer guide them. In the post-glory days of the church, it’s all about managing the faded fruits of vision: activities, building upkeep, and finances. On their way down the far side of the bell curve, these congregations feel the pinch of smaller offerings, shrunken worship attendance, diminished possibilities, and the loss of friends and acquaintances. More pews are empty and the congregation is decidedly more gray.

Blame is a defining dynamic of retirement. “Whose fault is it?” is the unspoken question. The pastor is the most visible person to tag. Chances are, though, the decline started several pastorates before you got there, has been unfolding for at least 10-30 years and the congregation has resisted changes suggested by you and your predecessors.

At the time my congregation blamed me, I took it very personally. I figured the decline was somehow my fault.  If only I worked harder, tried harder, was a better Pied Piper I could turn this church around. If only I had the wisdom to say, “Church, it’s not me. It’s you.”

Truthfully, for congregations in retirement it’s not you, and it’s not them either. They’re simply saying and doing what people say and do when they are afraid, uncertain of the future, and resisting the change they know they need. So just like you don’t need to take their comments personally, don’t make it about them either.

Instead, continue to step into your role as visionary leader. Much as they may want you to be a chaplain, your job as a leader is to be brave, bold, and faithful to the Gospel. Stand and cast the vision. A Jesus-like dream is the only thing that has any chance of making a significant difference. Otherwise, they’ll have every right to say: “It’s not us. It’s you.” Click To Tweet

Here are three best practices and two cautions when casting a vision in a retirement stage congregation.

Best Practice #1: Identify your sub-congregations. At this point you have several sub-congregations, even if they all worship at the same hour. Your people have come in waves under different pastorates and that pastor’s particular style, vision or goal. So, each sub-group is expecting something different of the church. Find out who joined when. Discover what they remember of that particular time and pastor. As you cast a new vision it’s important to scout out and address each sub-group distinctly and intentionally.

Best Practice #2: Connect the dots between the past and the future. Help each sub-group see how the new vision fulfills the vision they were first attract ted to. If the old vision was about growing the Sunday school with a promise of more young people, and the new vision is about easing suffering by reaching out to the homeless families in your neighborhood, help them see the common underlying principle: sharing the hopeful story of God’s love to create better lives for people.

Best Practice #3: Provide a strong rationale. Base your vison in a strong rationale that answers these questions: Why us? Why now? How will we partner with God to realize our vision? Include a strong biblical and theological foundation that connects the Gospel vision with your people and your context.

While you’re carrying out these best practices, do exercise caution. To bring retirement folks on board requires heartfelt emotional intelligence.

Caution #1: Be kind. Change isn’t easy. Look, they know they need to change. They just wish they didn’t have to. Give them as much input on the vision as possible. Even if you don’t take all their advice, complete the circle of listening by letting them know you heard them.

Caution #2: Give in on the things you can. I encouraged Ruth to preach a 15-minute sermon and finish worship in under an hour. Instead of fighting it, use that hour to gain their trust, love them, and begin to lead them in prayer for a new vision. Don’t waste the hour. Otherwise, I might say: “It’s not them. It’s you.”

Conflict can take us out when the stakes are high. But it needn’t have the last word. Build your emotional intelligence as you discover how to handle your own anxieties and fears during times of stress. Join me in January for a 2-part online Mastering Conflict workshop.

 

Science now confirms what scripture points to: there is a peace that passes all understanding. This peace, researchers have found, couple in conflictemanates from deep within the human heart. It is both measurable and reproducible. I suppose that’s not too surprising. The Biblical traditions equate the heart with feelings like love, peace, and joy.   Here’s what is surprising about the new research: this peace has the capacity to surpass all misunderstanding, too.

You know how being around angry or nasty people can put you in a bad mood?   And how being around laughter is infectious? And how a smile can travel from one person to another? Turns out that’s not just coincidence. It’s the heart’s own emotional intelligence.

Research has shown that emotions emit an energetic wavelength. When our hearts radiate emotions with higher wavelengths—such as appreciation, kindness, compassion, positive regard, joy, delight, and love and peace—we generate more of that into the world. When we radiate emotions with lower wavelengths—judgment, fear, worry, mistrust, suspicion, anger, hate and revenge—we literally create that more of that in the world.   Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Now here’s the cool part. These electromagnetic waves have the capacity to influence others, and to draw them in.   Just as sunlight is made up of waves of energy which travels through air, turning night to day, warming cold bones, and dappling leaves—our emotions influence the people around us. Click To TweetDepending on the feeling we radiate, we can intentionally invite other hearts into either a state of peaceful coherence or a state of jagged non-coherence.

What does all this have to do with church?

First, as a spiritual leader, it is important to make sure your heart is aligned with the energies of peace. The more spiritually grounded and coherent the leader’s heart is–that is, aligned with the peace that passes all understanding—the greater your capacity to radiate that peace to the people and situations around you. You can make a measurable difference.

Second, as your congregation gathers to pray, remember to expand your corporate focus beyond the immediate prayer concerns of your people. Intentionally radiate peace that passes understanding out into the world. This is important on the days that our world reverberates with misunderstanding—outrage, upset, and random acts of violence. Your congregation’s concentrated focus on heart-based prayer can make a measurable difference on a global scale.

Third, teach your people how to stay grounded in prayerful appreciation of all the good in the world. This appreciative stance increases heart-based coherence at every level of society. Notice what is right with the world. Focus on the divine signs and wonders around you. Highlight miracles.

In this way you partner with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to co-create the highest energies of peace, love and appreciation in the world. Surprisingly, this is an approach that surpass all misunderstandings in the world.

If personal peace is hard to come by, join us in January for a practical, online workshop that will empower you in Mastering Conflict.

 

Some years back, I had a particularly difficult parishioner.   Let’s call him Jack. Jack was gruff, opinionated, and sometimes caustic. I wasgrouchy transparent often afraid around him, and defensive. It didn’t take long to realize that he reminded me of another gruff, opinionated and sometimes caustic person in my life—my grandfather. Although small in stature—like this parishioner—my grandfather was a scary figure for me as a child. He was like the hard man in the parable of the talents who reaped where he did not sow. One of his famous sayings was, “You want something to cry about? I’ll give you something to cry about!” That threat was followed by the appearance of a belt. Not exactly comforting for a little kid. Needless to say, Jack never pulled out a belt, or threatened me, but I often felt small and young around him. Surprisingly, I found a way to be grateful for him.

At some point, I realized that I perceived Jack through an emotional filter of fear and defensiveness. Once it occurred to me that I was projecting my grandfather on to him I was able to get some emotional distance from him and put him into proper perspective. I was able to see and feel that I was no longer a child, that he did not intend to hurt me, and the fear that I was feeling was left over from childhood. It didn’t belong to this time and place.

I began to thank God for the difficulties he presented to me. This wasn’t easy. Or natural. But it did help. Click To Tweet

As I began to pray for him, I also cut myself some slack. I found I could approach him with greater confidence and openness. As our relationship shifted onto healthier terrain, I saw that some of his comments to me were helpful, and some of his insights were right on.

Then another insight surfaced.   Jack had been trying to communicate a whole slew of things to me that I missed entirely. I was so caught up in my own stuff that I didn’t realize he was putting out subtle cries for help. His marriage was on rocky ground, his health was deteriorating, and spiritually, he needed me to be available, not closed down.

Giving thanks for Jack allowed me to go from being defensive to present, from shut down to available.

When you come to a relationship with tainted attitudes—toward yourself or others—it’s hard to listen with an open heart or mind.   This won’t empower you as a leader. And it won’t empower your people to trust or follow you.

Who are you not present and available for? Give thanks for the difficult people in your life. Then, identify what’s in the way of being fully present. Take the time to resolve it, so that you can bring your full humanity, and your full spiritual powers, to bear.

In the meantime, please join me January 4 and 11 for my Mastering Conflict Online Workshop.

 

 

What words come to mind when you think of conflict? I recently asked a flower_on_the_streetgroup of a dozen church leaders. Answers ranged from anxiety, avoidance, and scared, to trying to keep the peace.

We are facing conflict in many ways in our world right now—national, political, ethnic, denominational, and familial. These conflicts heighten the tension in our churches. That can lead to some pretty bad situations.

Jesus offers some processes for dealing with conflict so that it doesn’t turn destructive. The Gospels say things like turn the other cheek, take another person with you when you have to call someone out, or forgive so that you can be forgiven.

But what if you can’t?

I want to introduce you to a process of self-regulation that will increase your capacity to follow Jesus’ counsel. In the world of emotional intelligence, self-regulation is the ability to master your emotions, responses and behaviors.   In other words, with increased ability to self-regulate, you can turn the other cheek instead of hitting back. You can have a calm conversation instead of stomping off and slamming doors. You can forgive instead of seething.

Self-regulation doesn’t make conflict go away. But it does give you the ability to avoid making things worse by turning your destructive reactions into productive responses. Click To Tweet

First, let’s take a look at what actually happens in a conflict situation: Conflict > Automatic Thought > Destructive Behavior.

An automatic thought is an unconscious assessment of what is happening. Automatic thoughts lead to generally destructive behavior. For instance, let’s say someone challenges me.   And that my automatic thought is, “He’s trying to make me look stupid!” In that case, I’m likely to get defensive and self-righteous. I’m going to want to prove my point instead of really listen to what he’s saying. The more I try to prove my point, the more I shut down any conversation. And the more likely he is to think, “#$%* She doesn’t even listen.” That will set up some destructive responses from him. See where this is going?

Instead of going down that path, here’s an emotional intelligence tool that will help you stay calm. In this acronym, each letter stands for an action to increase your self-regulation.

C: Calm yourself. For most of us this means pausing and praying. Or even simply breathing. Breathing gives us a chance to move out of fight or flight, and back into cognitive processes. In other words, it gives us a chance to access wisdom instead of simply reacting.

A: Assess your Automatic Thought. Tune in to your automatic thought. Bring it from the subconscious to the conscious realm. When you become aware of what you’re thinking, you’re on the road to choosing a new thought.

L: Listen to what was actually said instead of how you automatically interpreted it. Discover a new way of making sense of their comments. Listen both with your heart and your head.

M: Make a new response. Now that you have calmed yourself, assessed and listened, intentionally choose to make a new response. Think a new thought. Respond in a new way.

Conflict is a fact of life. At its best, it helps us clarify our values, articulate our needs, and arrive at new insights. At its worst, it tears us apart.

As stewards of the Gospel dream of the Kingdom of God, we owe it to ourselves to increase the love in the world, and not the anxiety; to increase the Kingdom and not conflict. That means we need to master ourselves. To practice self-regulation.

Ready to learn more about how to stay CALM? Join me for my upcoming Mastering Conflict workshop!