Search GlobalChristians

How to Understand and Use this Book

This is a Christian handbook on emotional transformation. Biblical EQ is about emotional competence, about being able to handle and discern emotions and express them wisely. The emphasis of the book is ongoing growth rather than healing. The book does not assume that the reader has emotional “problems” that need to be “fixed”. This is not a book for people with high levels of emotional pain to read to get better – though it may achieve that. Biblical EQ is a fitness manual rather than a diagnostic manual. Its focus is strength, health and maturity.

The aim of this book is to equip Christians, especially those in the ministry, by putting them in touch with the ground of their emotional being, getting them to commit to become emotionally mature and Christ-like, and helping with the correction of areas of imbalance and immaturity, then finally showing them how to express emotions with clarity, integrity and sensitivity in the context they are in. That’s a lot for one book and so Biblical EQ starts with some pretty solid foundations and build upwards because we are not tackling one emotion at a time here but actually trying to rebuild the Christian’s entire understanding of the emotional life of the believer from the ground up.

The first section, on Jesus as our model, deals with some of the basic overall biblical theology of emotions and is foundational to the rest of the book. It is written from an evangelical viewpoint and at a level that should suit most committed Christians. Its central premise is that Jesus Christ is the model for our emotional life and that the sanctification of our emotions is a work of grace involving the power of the Holy Spirit working in the committed Christian. Its pictures the ideal Christian as having grand and powerful emotions that are holy and good and which are wisely and appropriately expressed in God’s timing for His glory.

The second section, on the inner self and our emotional world, is perhaps the part of the book that has the most new teaching for many readers. It spends a lot of time looking at how emotions arise in our spirit, in our soul and from our body and how these complex interactions create our emotions and our character. It draws together many counseling techniques and Scriptural insights. It should lead the reader to a deep understanding of self and of how others arrive at the place they are emotionally. It is founded on a very literal and exhaustive treatment of the Scriptures and tries to work from the biblical data and carefully build an adequate understanding of the human person. Its central premise is that our inner self is not constant and fixed but is “being renewed day by day” and that we can be co-workers with God in this process of inner renewal.

The practical section is grounded in Proverbs-like general wisdom and common sense and much will be familiar territory to some readers, however it is useful to “be stirred up by way of reminder”. It deals with our experience of self-mastery, emotions and issues of emotional regulation, how we can read other people’s emotions and how to express those emotions appropriately in love. It also deals with how to tap into God’s love so we can minister to others. Its central premise is that God links to us through faith, which works through love, which employs specific focused wisdom and knowledge, to do good deeds and that on our side of the equation we facilitate this process by fixing our minds firmly on Christ and mastering our personal responses.

This book tries to give you both the relationship aspects and the specific focused wisdom and knowledge aspects of biblical EQ. References for further reading, a teachers guide and an exhaustive index has been provided for those who want to dip into the book to research a particular issue. A seminar manual is also available as a separate publication.

Part One

Jesus As Our Model

Commencing the Journey

(Proverbs 4:23 NKJV) Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.

Good emotional management is a highly needed commodity in Christian work. Without it we can unintentionally make a complete mess out of our service for God. One emotional explosion at the wrong moment can be held against us for a long time to come and we are often judged by others on how we handle our emotions. Many very productive Christian workers have had to leave the ministry because they just could not manage their emotions well and this marred all their relationships. So we need to do something – but what can we do? The good secular materials available do not draw on the resources that the Holy Spirit can bring to emotional transformation and few good Christian resources exist that combine biblical insights with good clinical data. This book is an attempt to do that.

In order to do this I have had to start with first principles and work out a sort of biblical paradigm with Jesus at its center and the emotional life of Jesus as our model. The Holy Spirit is seen as the main power behind emotional transformation. Also tips and techniques from secular authors as well as their data has been incorporated where this material is “Christian-compatible” so to speak. So this book is divided into three sections, the biblical basics, discussion of the inner self and our emotions, and practical tips on self-mastery and emotional expression. Each of these sections has five or six chapters each. The biblical section discusses some foundational teaching about the Christian emotional life, the “inner self” section looks at how emotions arise in our spirit and soul and are influenced by our body and how our inner emotional life is formed, finally the practical section looks at our experience and understanding of emotions and how they should be best expressed.

What is EQ?

Emotional intelligence is the term we use to describe a complex set of human abilities related to emotional management. The four key aspects of emotional intelligence as described by Mayer and Salovey (the pioneer researchers in the area) are:

1. Emotional identification, perception and expression

2. Emotional facilitation of thought

3. Emotional understanding

4. Emotional management

Various other researchers, most notably Daniel Goleman, have broken these into various sub-factors which are continually being reviewed. Recent findings in neurology have contributed greatly to our understanding of where emotions arise in the brain. The field is fluid and a final decision on what finally constitutes EQ has not been entirely reached yet and there are two or three main schools. However much is coming out of these studies that is very interesting from a Christian perspective, as we shall see as we go along.

What Is Biblical EQ?

This is the biblical perspective on the above four key skill areas. It doesn't neglect the findings of neuroscience but it adds in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of Proverbs. It has as its model the emotional life of Jesus Christ with His personal presence, self-control, emotional expressiveness and discernment of situations. Thus it has a clear pattern, a master plan that can be used to analyse theories and to determine what is true and false, wise and unwise. Secular theories have no "ideal person" to point to - they merely assemble ideals from their own theories and worldview. In Jesus we have a model , a guide, a point to aim our teaching towards and this is invaluable.

The Christian believer is to aspire to have the emotional life of Christ Jesus for that is very much part of being "in His image". Above all Biblical EQ is biblical - founded on faith in the inspired, inerrant and authoritative Scriptures.

The Failure Of The Secular Models of EQ

After reading various EQ books you know that emotions are important, that you should handle them better and a lot about how they arose within you, but you are not shown how to conquer them. In fact many of the EQ programs based on this kind of research have had fairly middling results. The corporate sector is pulling back from them, partly because of recession but partly because they are not delivering as expected. Why is this so? Why has the secular approach to emotional intelligence fizzled?

Firstly they have a philosophical underpinning that has no definite direction. There is nothing intrinsic to the theory that tells them what to aim for when helping a person achieve a higher level of emotional intelligence. Apart from being in touch with ones emotions and being able to express them accurately, appropriately and responsibly there is no “big picture” of what the emotionally intelligent person should turn out like. People end up confused and perplexed. Theories seem at variance with each other and the result is that some practitioners are almost Zen Buddhists while others are extremely businesslike, manipulative and pragmatic. Without any agreement on what an ideal person is they cannot make much real progress.

Secondly much of the work of Goleman and others involves a model steeped in a medical and neurological framework that sees our responses as entirely conditioned by biology, genetics and environment. Alteration of responses is through medication, education and behavior modification. After a while people start to feel depersonalized by this approach, and react against the diminution of human responsibility that seems to be the outcome. It is so reductionistic and materialistic that after some initial enthusiasm people are repelled.

Thirdly prayer and spiritual disciplines are marginalized in the literature despite their utility. For instance on page 75 of Goleman's first book Emotional Intelligence he says "Finally, at least some people are able to find relief from their melancholy in turning to a transcendent power. Tice (a researcher into depression) told me "Praying, if you are very religious, works for all moods, especially depression". Despite this obvious therapeutic value for prayer it is never again referred to in Goleman's book. People know religion works - they are just refusing to admit it much in print.

Should we then throw out their work entirely? Not at all. Truth is truth and measurements are measurements. There is an enormous amount of good work and wise information in the current EQ literature. It can be, and is, very helpful in giving us understanding of how our emotions work. However it does not give us a whole lot of power to transform them. The power to defeat deep and difficult emotions comes from God and involves the human spirit coming into contact with God's Spirit. So in this book we shall tend to turn to secular sources to explain much of the physiology and the mechanisms of emotion and to Christian sources for the power to deal with them.

Core Concepts

To get answers that genuinely help people we need two things, a clear destination, and the power to get there in a reasonable amount of time. Our destination is the image of Christ Jesus, our power to get there is the infilling with and transforming work of the Holy Spirit. These are just the some of the great advantages of the gospel, we have hope, and we have lots of hope!

Thus the central premise of the book is that Christians can have their emotional life redeemed so that it is transformed to mirror the emotional life of Jesus Christ and that the Holy Spirit’s power and grace is the key to this process. This involves renewing seven key aspects which will be discussed in detail as we move along:

1. Renewing our basic perceptions of reality and our perspective on life.

2. Renewing our individual belief system.

3. Renewing the purposes and intents of our heart.

4. Renewing our physical bodies and their influence on our emotions.

5. Renewing our ability to be aware of and to understand our own emotions.

6. Renewing our ability to understand the emotions of other people.

7. Renewing our ability to appropriately express emotion according to the desire of the Holy Spirit.

The first few of these are a very deep work. It takes effort, courage and time to change one’s perspective on life or to review and change core beliefs, thoughts and intentions. However unless this is done the foundations are not strong and any positive emotional changes will be temporary at best. Thus it is important that you work through the foundational chapters and understand them. They are the chapters which will give you the deepest wisdom to assist you with your emotional growth. Before we go much further we need to answer a few of the common questions about emotions and that is the topic of the next chapter .

Discussion Questions

1. What do you want out of this book?

2. Are you prepared to change?

3. How can we combine secular insights with biblical insights?

What are some of the reasons that the secular models of EQ have not got the results that everyone hoped they would?

What advantages does the revelation of Scripture give us?

What advantages do we obtain from having Jesus as our model?