Emotional intelligence is a relatively new concept. Coined in 1990, the term has become the latest darling of pop psychology. What is it exactly and should Christian parents be working with their children on their emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is at its core the ability to get along with others. It is not related to intellectual ability, but rather how well one is equipped to interact successfully with others.
The book Primal Leadership maintains that emotional intelligence is made up of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.
Are those concepts biblical? As with anything that has secular origins, there are some biblical truths hidden within the secular framework. Self- awareness is part of becoming a Christian and then living a Christian life. Christians need to be aware when they are sinning so they become more Christ like over time. They need to be aware of their hearts, minds and souls and whether they are godly, too. Christians also need self awareness in order to be aware of when their words and actions are truly serving others and sharing their faith in effective ways.
Self management is most closely aligned with self control. While everyone is capable of some amount of self control, we know it is a fruit of the Spirit. This means in part that we need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit Christians receive at baptism to reach our potential to be self controlled.
Social awareness is picking up on the cues of others to understand how we are impacting them. If done in an effort to serve and share one’s faith, social awareness can be godly. It’s important to note though that social awareness can also be used to manipulate and control others – quite ungodly behaviors.
The final component of emotional intelligence according to the authors is relationship management. This area is a bit fuzzier than the others. Once again motivation is a key factor for Christians. If one is managing relationships to love, support, nurture, encourage and point others to God, then that is stewardship. We are taking good care of the relationships with which God has blessed us.
On the other hand, if managing relationships is about manipulation, control, “winning” or always getting our way, then it becomes ungodly. Teaching your kids to check their motivations in self awareness can be key to be godly in managing relationships.
Emotional intelligence without God in the equation is tricky. People skills can be used for good or evil. Remembering what God has to say will help your kids use their emotional intelligence for the good of others and God’s Kingdom.
In the end, while you may choose to discuss emotional intelligence with your kids, I would suggest working more on their hearts and Christian character. If they become who God wants them to be, they will have all of the emotional intelligence they need – and know how to use it in godly ways.