Emotion Quotient (EQ) is the measurement for identifying EC. In the previous two articles we examined how emotional capacity (EC) is directly linked to perceived worth and value as a human being. We discussed how shame destroys emotional health and how vulnerability is necessary to chase away the shame.
Two core elements of vulnerability are discussed next; honesty and humility.
I researched the topic of forgiveness for three years as part of a seminary doctorate degree I completed in 2010. I learned many amazing things about forgiveness that changed my life forever. I authored a book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart to help people find the freedom that true forgiveness provides. The book is written from a Christian perspective, but principles apply universally. I continue to learn more, but the ironic thing about learning to forgive is that, at any given moment, I am only one offense away from my next lesson in forgiveness. The necessity to forgive is always preceded by an offense. Forgiving an offense is not merely a mental decision. Forgiving involves the emotional capacity (vulnerability) to recognize offense and take the necessary action to surrender ultimate judgment to a higher power. I discovered that most people do not truly understand and practice forgiveness because they do not understand the nature of offense and its negative impact on their emotional and mental health. Everyone needs to grow in forgiveness because everyone both offends and gets offended. Offense is the core issue.
A person’s reaction to offense is a primary indicator of EQ. Recognizing an offense, wrestling with the reality of loss, and facing the painful emotions takes hard work, but there are no short cuts to building EC. When our heart is offended, our mind will usually try to cover it up as a self-protection mechanism. The first step to uncovering our mind’s scheme is to be willing to admit our heart’s offense. When negative thoughts and feelings produce anger and undue fear towards someone who has done us wrong, we must be willing to drill down inside our heart and discover roots of offense. It’s not about the other person’s actions, it’s about your response to them. Some people believe a myth that they are harder to offend than others. The truth is, we all offend easily and that’s where honesty comes in.
Self-honesty begins with awareness. Am I acting on truth or falsehood? Am I deceiving myself about the real, for real, motive behind my reactions? Am I merely numbing pain with some of the actions discussed in the previous article (over eating, over medicating, using pornography, over stimulating with technology etc.)? These questions should be asked of self when you feel disappointed, discomforted, displeased, frustrated, etc to uncover the stronger feelings of rejection, shame, unworthiness, and the like.
I think failure to handle offense adequately is the greatest block to building emotional capacity. It estounds me how frequently people declare, “I’m not really angry,” but then constantly blame and condemn other people, justify their own bad behavior, and show obvious gestures of frustration and discontent about the situation for which they deny the anger. People claim not to be offended, but show obvious emotions of pain and discomfort and even lash out in slander and gossip of the person they feel wounded by. The anger usually points to a deeper root of bitter judgment linked to offense. These judgments are often so common they are difficult to recognize as offense.
The world operates under natural laws that shape reality. Breaking these laws (realities) produce consequences. For example, the law of gravity demonstrates disastrous results for jumping out a building on the 10th floor without a landing device. I believe God created these laws for mankind’s benefit. Truth can be defined as God’s view of reality. Each person has their own perspective of reality. When the perspective lines up with truth (God’s reality), things go well. When things are not going well, it usually means that our perception(s) of realtiy are out of whack somewhere. Being honest with ourselves about our true condition, makes all the difference. For example, the law of sowing and reeping says that when a person does good deeds, good results will follow. When a person does bad deeds, bad will follow. When a person drinks too much alcohol and drives a car, they endanger themselves and others around them. If a person is charged with DUI, they are failing to be honest about the effects of alcohol and their ability to drive. When we are unable or unwilling to be honest about our true condition, this is an indicator of low self-worth and low EQ. When we have a poor image of self as evidenced by feelings of rejection, shame, and unworthiness, our perceptions of reality will cause self-defeat and self-destruction.
Accepting this truth also takes humility. Just behind honesty, humility becomes the second major demonstration of healthy vulnerability. Being humble is not a show of weakness, but it is strength. Being humble knows the difference between self-confidence and pride. Being humble puts other people’s interests ahead of self. Life’s true meaning and purpose is found in adding value to other people’s lives. Maybe the most telling aspect of humility (and the most crucial to EQ), is the degree to which a person is teachable. Teachableness is not merely measured by receiving raw knowledge, but also the willingness to apply that knowledge appropriately. The writer of the ancient Proverbs called this wisdom. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). The “fear” of the Lord is speaking of respect and honor of God as the source of truth and natural laws (realities of the way the world operates). A person shows humility when they receive and practice input from other people. Seeking and relying on truth from God’s higher authority is the most solid foundation for building EQ.
Most people follow one of two remedies to deal with hurt from life circumstances or relationships. People try their best to pretend things are better than they really are (denial), or they live to relieve it at all cost (addictive behaviors). Whether people deny or over-gratify, at some point, they become more painfully aware of their desperate state of human weakness and inability to effect lasting change without higher power resources. For people to let go of denial or false refuge to face the truth about themselves is sometimes a fearful step. The tension in the inner person between God pushing truth up and a fearful mind pushing the truth down is a form of anxiety. Part of a person is wise and wants to know the truth. Part of the person is foolish and fears the truth. For the God-follower, as I write in my book mentioned above, God’s Spirit “reveals the difference, and will bring healing to those who humble themselves and are willing to be cooperative. As people give up their fear of the truth and trust God to forgive them just as they are, then they can begin to surrender themselves and learn to rest in the salvation of God’s grace.”
Truth (God’s view of reality) is the best “measuring stick” for emotional capacity. Only God knows the degree to which a person makes their heart vulnerable to truth. A truly honest and humble heart receives truth even when it hurts. The Psalmist says, “Behold, You desire truth in the innost be ing“ (Psalm 51:6; NASB). Receiving (believing) the truth always involves giving up falsehood. For example, for a long time I’ve believed that God loves me. However, my thoughts about God’s love towards me are much different now than five, ten, even one year ago. Why? Because intentional vulnerability has allowed me to root out a huge amount of falsehood from my heart. “God loves me,”My life has meaning,“ “I know who I am” have deeper meaning because there is less falsehood. The following falsehoods have less grip on my thinking: “I’m not good enough for God to love me,” “I’m nobody,” “I’m not worthy,” “I’ll never be good enough,” and the like.
Sometimes pondering the answers to questions can help reveal our true beliefs. Some of the questions below may be tougher for you than others.
What do I think about vulnerability?
Do I allow myself to feel?
Am I afraid to be honest with myself? What do I fear?
Am I honest with myself about my mental and emotional condition?
What positive expressions would I like to see more of in my life (eg. Love, joy, peace …)?
How could being more honest with myself about my emotional condition produce better results?
Are any of my activities/ behaviors numbing pain?
If so, what kind of help do I need to address the problem?
Am I truly willing to make the adjustments necessary for lasting transformation?
What is the next step for improvement?
Can I do it now? What is the date/ time the step will be taken by?
My hope is that self-honesty and humility will guide you to some answers so you can find vulnerability for growth. Take action, and come back to questions like these in a week or month and repeat for building emotional quotient. Growing as a person, parent, or leader requires more than intelligence, skill, and experience. Emotion cannot be measured in quantity, but in quality of expression. True meaning and purpose await a response.by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry