Archives For Emotional intelligence

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!

Thomasina stood up among a group of fellow pastors to tell us her vision for herself. “I am committed to self-regulation and to be the pastor impostermy people need me to be.” As we dived deeper into her vision, it became clear that she had a bad case of imposter syndrome. Highly successful in the world of education and administration, somehow her gifts had been unwelcome in the church. While she thought more self-regulation was the answer, I doubted that would solve the problem. Too much self-regulation translates into self-suppression. Then we can no longer express our gifts or passions.

I’ve seen imposter syndrome—the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved—afflict pastors all across the country. I think the core of the problem is bad theology. It’s time to break it.

Thomas Merton writes that at the core, we are in deep and inescapable contact with the Divine. Paul tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. The Psalmist writes that there is no place we can go that God is not. The ancient writer of Genesis tells us that we are made in the very image and likeness of God.

Then came Augustine. We have him to thank for the gift of original sin. Original sin is the concept that while God made us good, we “fell” from that grace. Only something outside of ourselves can fix us. And only if we are somehow repentant enough. The question is how much is enough? Most of us deal with “never good enough.” You don’t even need to be Christian to absorb this theology. It’s part of our culture. It’s transmitted to us in silent invisible ways we don’t even know about. It eats away at our very bones like a cancer.

Here is the outgrowth of this bad theology: God’s love is conditional. We believe we are never really good enough. We are separate from God. We are on our own. We don’t belong. We are “other” to God.

Hogwash.

Thank goodness Jesus didn’t have to deal with this bad theology. He might have dealt with imposter syndrome too. Can you imagine? “Beloved son, me? Nah, not really. You’re well pleased? I doubt it. Don’t you think I need to do better first?”

As I teach apostleship to church leaders, it’s clear that Jesus wasn’t weighted down by any sense of original sin. More importantly, neither were the apostles. We see no hint of imposter syndrome in them. They were free to learn from Jesus, to try out the stuff that he taught them, to wrangle for first place, and to even develop the faith of Jesus so that they could perform miracles alongside him. Jesus would have had a hard time empowering and authorizing them—tapping into their sense of agency—if they had been hindered by a persistent sense of unworthiness.

We are called to co-create miracles with Jesus. To do that, we need a better theology. One that doesn’t trap us with the idea that we are never enough, or that we are separate from the very God who gives us life. Rather, one that empowers us to recognize our inherent goodness, the innate divinity within our humanity, and our essential oneness with God.

It’s on everyone’s minds. It’s all over the news. Millions of women took to the streets to make their voices heard. Should churches join in the political talk or religion and politicsnot?

I say yes. The Bible is intensely political. Every prophet risks their skin by talking truth to power. Every king weighs obedience to God against other concerns. Every temple, shrine, and altar has political ramifications.   The same with every war, skirmish, and battle. Even the Sermon on the Mount is political. Love your enemies? Do good to those who hate you? Who do you think Jesus is talking about? Religion and politics have always been deeply intertwined. Jesus’ own life is an example of that.

This co-mingling didn’t end with the biblical era. The church, at its best, and its worst, has always been political. We’re at our worst when we imagine Christ is aligned with one political party or another. Or when we cut deals. Or when we trade faith for power. We’re at our best, however, when like MLK, we strive for the soul of the whole nation.

How to talk politics though, without causing further pain and discontent?   Here are some suggestions to get you started.

1. Start with ground rules that insure careful listening and mutual respect.

2. Don’t assume they voted for their candidate for the exact reason you didn’t. In other words, don’t assume the worst in them and the best in yourself.

3. Plan to listen deeply for the personal stories behind the political passion.

4. Assume they’re not 100% wrong and you are not 100% right.

5. Assume God loves you all.

Once these are in place, look for biblical principles that you agree on. Look for how the biblical principles might get played out in a particular policy.  Ask, What are the ethical ramifications of such policies? When we discuss things at this level, we are talking politics in a way that edifies and builds us up, rather than divides and tears us down.

To get beyond knee-jerk reactions means listening deeply. To the Bible, to the Spirit, to one another, to journalists, and to the politicians who present these options.

This is far from easy. It requires us to be well-schooled in both our faith and in the issues at hand. It means digging into the Bible, our personal beliefs, and the guiding principles behind legislation and policy. You gotta to listen to more than sound bites to do that.

It’s worthwhile though. I believe engaging in these kinds of conversations keeps the church honest. It helps us determine if we are living out the love we profess.  It helps us be clear if we are living out our baptismal vows of using our God-given power to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. It helps us get straight on if we are furthering the Kingdom.

In the midst of our discussions, let’s not forget to pray. For ourselves.  For our country.  For one another. And for our leaders.  President Trump needs our prayers, and our love.  Really.  At the same time, he needs our accountability and engagement. His success, and our success as a country—whether you voted for him or not—depend on that. We can only hold him and other leaders accountable, appropriately, if we are spiritually grounded, well-informed, and speaking from love.

Want to get in on the whole discussion?  Click here to check out this recent conversation with Discipleship Ministries’ Scott Hughes and I.