One thing we addressed was especially valuable to us. We talked about emotional intelligence, which is our ability to read a situation and a person emotionally and take that into account. This is also valid for our own emotions. It is our ability to take in and understand the information that emotions provide and act in a way that takes that information into account.
American culture on the whole has not had a great relationship with emotions, especially my (Nate's) gender. We see some emotional expressions as signs of weakness and someone that accesses that part of themselves as out of control.
The challenge is that our emotions are a part of us, just like anything else. When our finger hurts we pull back from the source of the pain. When something feels good, like a massage at the spa, we want to go back again and again. Our emotions give us cues to what is going on in our hearts. One example the presenter used was really powerful.
Our trainer talked about a pastor trying to decide between two future ministry opportunities. With the first option, he explained it very matter-of-factly. He went through the advantages and disadvantages straightforwardly. Then he got to the second option. His eyes lit up and his whole countenance changed. You could tell this second option accessed something deep within him, and he was very excited. At the end of explaining the two options, he finished by saying that he wasn't sure which option was for him or which direction God was leading.
The counselor pointed out the difference between the two and said that maybe he already had a decision. His emotional reaction had displayed what his deep desires were. That doesn't mean that is where God is leading this man 100%, but it should be a clue. Furthermore, recognizing this is a big part of emotional intelligence. It is the ability to read the clues that our own and other's emotions are giving and then taking those into account.
One good question in the face of all this is:
How has this helped us?
Our lives are full of change and transitions. Often we don't notice to toll those transitions are taking on us, but our emotions are a very helpful cue. I have seen many times over the last few years where my own personal emotional reaction to a situation goes far beyond how I would normally react to that situation. These emotions are an important clue that I have something I haven't thought about or processed.
Ultimately, there is a continuum to emotions. We can either shut out all emotions, or we can overindulge in them. In German, there is a phrase, "you can fall off either side of a horse." This is as true with emotional engagement as any other part of life. When we shove our emotions down, we are setting ourselves up for them to explode or come out sideways. When we go to the other side, we can wallow in self pity or become overly sensitive. But when we healthily engage our emotions, we can fully experience the life that God has for us.
How has emotional intelligence helped you handle situations in your life? Leave your answers in the comments below.