Social and Emotional Intelligence and its Role in Christianity

Last Saturday, I was encouraged to call into The Practical Christian (a show I was on in October) and participate in a conversation with the open-minded and warm-hearted Rev. Mark Sandlin, who formed the pages Until All Can Wed and The God Article, to name a few. I wasn’t sure that I would have anything specific to add but late in the show as I heard both the host, Rev. Guy Lynch and Rev. Mark explaining how the church would do well to focus on mindfully loving others, I realized that my perspective was timely and could possibly be well-received by today’s leaders in Progressive Christianity.

So, I called in and made the suggestion that if Christianity is going to have a chance in this world, its leaders simply must change its course from being some of the most socially and emotionally inept people in the nation to becoming socially and emotionally intelligent.

Of course, that is a tall order (and it should be after all of the social and emotional damage the church has done) but it also begets the question, “What is social and emotional intelligence?” There has been some online discussion about a definition of social and emotional intelligence and as a Director of a pre-school, this topic couldn’t be more relevant to me. I simplified a definition for the show and stated that social and emotional intelligence is about the power of an individual’s voice and how that voice is what defines what a person likes, dislikes, wants, does not want, believes, and does not believe.  A socially and emotionally intelligent person knows what he/she wants and knows how to express himself without fear and certainly without needing to be right.

When is the last time you had a conversation with a “Christian” who could express himself without fear or the need to be right, especially during conflict?

I don’t mean to reduce all of Christianity to this issue but allow me to share a quote from a Native American Peace Keeper whose writing reflects my understanding of social and emotional intelligence, although that is not what he is addressing in this statement:

“Many challenges and difficulties we face as human beings everywhere on Mother Earth are either the result of our own actions or those of other members of the Human Family. To a large degree, human beings make the human experience what it is. Because we don’t understand the natural laws that govern the physical and spiritual worlds we live in, we violate each other and the natural world upon which all life on Mother Earth depends. As a Human Family, we dwell within the web of relationships we have made with other peoples, nations, nature, and the spiritual world. The hurt of one is the hurt of all and the honour of all is the honour of all.

“The totality of the impact that the web of all these relationships has on our lives, on our future generations and on our Mother Earth itself is what can be referred to as humanities challenges. Prosperity and poverty, sickness and wellness, justice and oppression, war and peace — all of these are products of the impact of these fundamental human relationships.” – Phil Jane, Jr.

In short, social and emotional intelligence is about finding one’s own voice, knowing where we fit in the largest social structures, knowing how to fit in the smallest social structures and having the emotional awareness of self and others to bring about peace and support while maintaining responsibility for self.

Now, can you imagine what would happen if you had all that and added a healthy spirituality?

A church that was spiritually healthy AND socially and emotionally intelligent would be on fire with possibility but healthy spirituality without social and emotional intelligence is a church of perpetual conflict, always creating and putting out fires but never fully in sync with the natural human existence.

I offer this note as a peace-pipe to those who work in Progressive Christianity, or anyone who is trying to fulfill a calling be it spiritual, social or emotional!

My resistance to being a ‘Christian’ has very little to do with Jesus and has much more to do with the lack of awareness that the church has for one another and the greater connectivity of the creation that we share. So far, I have never attended a socially and emotionally intelligent Christian Church. I’ve met socially and emotionally intelligent Christians but… as a whole, they are more heaven-bound than earthly good and I think it’s a flaw of the “organized” faith…

Because I do not think Jesus was socially or emotionally inept… only those who are more concerned about following him to Heaven rather than living like him on Earth seem to have developed this delay.

I wish you all well because there is possibility… and when I pray, whoever is listening to me, knows that I still have great hopes for where this will all be in three more decades. In my lifetime, may the word “Christian” represent peace-builders, stewards of the Earth and people who walked the Earth with compassion, gentility and in authentic relationships.

Namaste.

Gail