Relate to God in Real Time

Going Vertical: Talking to the Father

Going Vertical: Talking to the Father

Union with Christ enables us to focus on the various ways that we are connected to Jesus (see previous blog). Now we need to bring these truths into the real life fight to grow in grace. So here is the challenge: how do we take the truth of our union with Christ and utilize it in such a way that we relate to God during our struggle and therefore actually change? That’s step 8.

Step 8

Your union with Christ should move you in two ways: a lifestyle of repentance (or “deconstruction”) and faith (or “reconstruction”). What does this look like?

Gospel Deconstruction: Repentance

I’ll start by sharing an example from my own life—follow along as I highlight a few themes from the previous blogs.

Look Around You (You, Baggage, Terrain, Weather)

Late one afternoon, I was sitting in my house enjoying some peace and quiet. This always works better when no one else is around to interrupt you! At just the moment that I was contemplating how peaceful it was, the front door opened and then was quickly slammed. I immediately felt tense and a bit agitated. It was my teenage daughter coming home from school. I managed to welcome her home by saying, “Hey, how was your day?” I got a terse response: “Why would you care?” She proceeded to stomp up one flight of stairs, then stomp down the hallway and stomp up the second flight of stairs. Then I heard it again: she slammed her bedroom door! What was a peaceful, quiet afternoon in the house was shattered in about 15 seconds.

Gauge Your Reactions

I could feel myself tense up immediately. There was that all-too familiar struggle with irritation and anger. It was a personal battle within that occasionally spilled over into my interpersonal relationships. It was as if I was standing at the junction: would I respond in the right way?

Look Under the Hood

Why was I irritated? What was I not getting that I wanted? On the surface, there was nothing inherently sinful in my desires. But in that moment, they had become something that I was living for, or worshiping, more than Christ:

  • Peace and Comfort: I had been working with people all day and all I wanted was some down time from the challenges of what other people wanted. Drinking a diet coke and catching up on the daily news on TV was bliss. As soon as my daughter entered the house, the atmosphere had been ruined. Peace and comfort, which can be very good things, had morphed into something I was living for.

  • Appreciation and Respect: Who doesn’t want appreciation, especially from your own son or daughter? After all the sacrifices you make for them, the least they could do is show respect! In this instance I felt disrespected when my daughter did not respond positively to my greeting. Appreciation and respect, which can be very good things, had morphed into something I was living for.

Gospel Reconstruction: Faith

This is where the reconstruction began. It started with a desperate cry for help to God and continued into ongoing conversation with him. It just happened that I had been doing some sermon preparation earlier that morning on a passage in 1 Corinthians 1. (Of course, these things never “just happen!”) The one verse that stood out was 1 Corinthians 1 v 30.

It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

That verse captures a host of the blessings that we discussed in the previous blog. And as I studied it, it had begun to penetrate deep into my soul. It was beautiful in its simplicity. It captured so many of the blessings that were mine because I was in Christ. These truths enabled me to start talking to God and turn from gazing at daily pleasures like peace, comfort, appreciation and respect and start gazing at Christ.

So as I rounded the corner at the top of the first flight of stairs and uttered my simple prayer—“Help me, God. Here I go again”—something astonishing happened. What followed was utterly miraculous, though no one would have been able to see the transformation that was going on in my soul at the moment. Here is how it unfolded:

  • By God’s grace, I was beginning to see how I was living for peace, comfort and respect rather than for Christ. Seeing patterns and signature temptations is a work of the Spirit.

  • I started to cry out to God for help. This simple pivot took me out of myself and directly to God.

  • I began to talk to God based on 1 Corinthians 1 v 30. The truth of Scripture began at the “head-level” but moved to a deeper place. I began to relate to God. The written word enabled me to engage with God and talk to him.

  • The truths in that one verse reminded me of my connection to Christ. They captured who I was in Christ and how that was deeper, more profound and more beautiful than anything else in this world; even good things like peace, comfort, appreciation and respect!

It is encouraging to know that there is hope for these everyday moments in your personal and interpersonal life.

You can find a full explanation and illustration of this in Chapter 8 of Unstuck: A Nine-Step Journey to Change That Lasts

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

What is the Fruit of Emotional Intelligence?

Photo by travis bradberry

Photo by travis bradberry

In the tree to your right, you will see the fruit of emotional intelligence (EQ). If you reflect on your current work environment, you will immediately see why these are so important! They are also incredibly important for all of your relationships.

In his book Emotional Intelligence, Dan Goleman talks about self-control and empathy. If we are going to evidence the types of attitudes and behaviors that we see in the diagram, we have to understand just what it is we need to focus on as we seek to grow in EQ. Goleman says:

For one, impulse is the medium of emotion; the seed of all impulse is a feeling bursting to express itself in action. Those who are at the mercy of impulse—who lack self-control—suffer a moral deficiency: The ability to control impulse is the base of will and character. By the same token, the root of altruism lies in empathy, the ability to read emotions in others; lacking a sense of another’s need or despair, there is no caring. And if there are any two moral stances that our times call for, they are precisely these, self-restraint and compassion.

So you can see how very important EQ is. Understanding our emotions and expressing them appropriately is no simple matter. In addition, empathy is at the core of creating safety in our relationships. It is that impulse of emotion that we need to understand in order to grow. That is no small challenge because the time between emotion, impulse and action is a fraction of a second! Often, we are reacting to people and situations based upon perceptions that may or may not be accurate.

Roger Birkman, who developed the Birkman Method assessment, understands that EQ is challenging to grow in because most of us live life based upon our own perceptions of ourselves and others that can often be wrong. He says this,

Individuals naturally have selective perceptions about the way they see themselves and others…We each tend to approach tasks with our own bias ‐ the window through which we see the world. When we perform our assigned jobs, naturally we see things our way and tend to find other groupsʹ ideas different and strange – even wrong or threatening. Because we view the world through our own filters, often we base our beliefs and subsequent actions on wrong perceptions. These understandable but inaccurate expectations can lead us to behave in ways that cause problems for ourselves and for other people.

Below are some of those perceptions that bias our judgement:

  • I'm normal, it's other people who have a problem.

  • Most people feel the way I do.

  • The best way to do something is my way.

  • The way someone acts is the way they want to be treated by others.

  • There is an ideal personality style------mine!

Given these biases, you can see why we often fail to slow down. When we don’t, we either run over others or miss them altogether. Slowing down enables us to push against our natural inclination to view the world through our narrow perspective and consider our limitations and the perceptions of others.

Scripture is replete with encouragement to slow down and not get hijacked in the moment. In Ephesians 5:15, Paul says, “Pay attention to how you live, not as unwise but as wise.” Additionally, throughout the New Testament, Jesus uses the word, Behold, over and over to get our attention.

In our next blog, we will look at the 12 competencies that EQ has found that can enable us to slow down. If we combine these skills with a secure relationship with God through his self-giving love and grace, we have the potential to see significant change in ourselves and in our relationships and become more proficient at the skills listed on the tree above.

Copyright © 2018 Timothy S. Lane

1 Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Emotional Intelligence and the Brain

Three level brain.gif

In the previous post, we saw how important it is to answer the question, "What are emotions?" before we could answer the question, "What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?" The next thing we need is a brief overview of how the brain works. Using the triune brain theory helps to simplify something that could get very complex! This perspective is just one of many since the brain involves much more complexity than we will be discussing here.

As you can see in the photo, three layers control different aspects of human functioning. The two regions we are most interested in when it comes to EQ are the limbic region (where our emotions live) and the neocortex region (where our high-order thinking operates). The goal in EQ is to have these two regions work in tandem with one another. The challenge is that the limbic region can easily hi-jack the neocortex region because it is processing data before if reaches the neocortex. In his book, Emotional Intelligence, Dan Goleman puts it this way:

These two minds, the emotional and the rational, operate in tight harmony for the most part, intertwining their very different ways of knowing to guide us through the world. Ordinarily there is a balance between emotional and rational minds, with emotion feeding into and informing the operations of the rational mind, and the rational mind refining and sometimes vetoing the inputs of the emotions. Still, the emotional and rational minds are semi-independent faculties, each reflecting the operation of distinct, but interconnected, circuitry in the brain (p.9)

The skills that are taught in EQ are precisely aimed at helping us to slow down, so that we don't experience an "emotional hijacking." I am reminded of James' simple exhortation in James 1:19:

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."

Notice how James has to get our attention by first saying, "take note of this." It is as if he knows that we need a lot of help slowing down, so he asks us to slow down before he tells us to slow down! Jesus does something similar when he utters one simple word: "Behold!" You see it over and over again in Jesus' teachings. It is another way of getting our attention before he gets our attention.

It appears that long before the advent of modern research and neuroscience, keen observers of human behavior saw this tendency. Unfortunately, some concluded that emotions were less than human and tended to view them as inferior to thought. God is the creator of our physical bodies, and he created us with emotions. They are intrinsically good. It is what we do with them that matters. They are to be managed, but emotions can play a significant role in wise decision-making.

Goleman addresses this:

While the world often confronts us with an unwieldy array of choices (How should you invest your retirement savings? Whom should you marry?), the emotional learning that life has given us (such as the memory of a disastrous investment or a painful breakup) sends signals that streamline the decision by eliminating some options and highlighting others at the outset. In this way, Dr. Damasio argues, the emotional brain is as involved in reasoning as is the thinking brain.....The emotions, then, matter for rationality.

In essence, what Goleman is stating is that IQ and EQ, when working together create the best decision. In light of this, it is important that we do not fall into the trap of minimizing emotions or even viewing them in a negative light. When we do that, we will not grow in wisdom.

When the Apostle Paul calls us to be "transformed by the renewing of our mind," he has in view the whole person. The word that is used for "mind" is not just speaking about one's cognition but one's affections. In order to be transformed, we need the Holy Spirit to aid us in linking the thinking and feeling brains together.

In our next post, we will begin to more clearly define EQ.

Copyright © 2018 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Parenting and Emotional Intelligence

jordan-whitt-145327.jpg

As you look back on your childhood, how did your family of origin approach feelings? How has that shaped you and the way you interact with others? If you are a parent, how does that play itself out in the way you interact with your children?

This is what researchers call “meta-emotions”; your underlying narrative that interprets how you think and feel about feelings. There are significant implications for parenting. In his book, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, John Gottman says this:

They (parents) want to teach their kids to handle problems effectively and to form strong, healthy relationships. But there’s a big difference between wanting to do right by your kids and actually having the wherewithal to carry it off. That’s because good parenting requires more than intellect. It touches a dimension of the personality that’s been ignored in much of the advice dispensed to parents over the past thirty years. Good parenting involves emotion.

Positive and Negative Emotions

There are basic families of emotions. Some have categorized them into positive and negative. Examples of positive emotions are happiness, excitement, empathy, pleasure and interest. Examples of negative emotions are sadness, anger, contempt, embarrassment and fear. Labeling some emotions as positive and others as negative might imply that you should encourage the good ones and suppress the bad ones. But that would be the furthest thing from the truth. The goal is to understand and express positive and negative emotions appropriately.

The Psalms are a good representation of how to express both kinds of emotions. They show us that positive and negative emotions can either be expressed in godly or ungodly ways. So sadness, anger, fear and embarrassment can be expressed in godly ways and positive emotions can potentially be expressed in ungodly ways. For example, I can be sad over the loss of a loved one and express that in a way that is appropriate and godly. On the other hand, I can be happy and excited due to a misuse of an intoxicant and that would be ungodly.

Parenting and Emotions

John Gottman identifies four parenting styles as they relate to emotions. The first three are unhelpful and the fourth is helpful.

Parenting Style #1: The Dismissing Style

This style of parenting is the “just get over it” style. In an effort to avoid negative emotions, the parent will say something like, “You don’t need to be sad. It’s not that bad. Put a smile on your face. There’s no reason to be unhappy.” Gottman says that while the parent may be well-intentioned, the child is taught that certain emotions aren’t to be experienced and should be avoided.

Parenting Style #2: The Disapproving Style

This style actually punishes negative emotions. Disapproving parents view negative emotions as unacceptable and controllable, so instead of trying to understand the child’s emotions, they discipline or punish them for the way they feel. This rarely enables to child to calm down and it places a great deal of guilt on the child. They may grow up thinking that something is wrong with them.

Parenting Style #3: The Laissez-Faire Style

If the first two styles are not helpful, it may be tempting to think that you should just let children feel and express their emotions any way they want to. It sounds like, “That’s it, just let the feelings out. Whatever you feel like doing is okay.” This style makes the child feel safe with their emotions, but it places no limits on their behavior and there is little guidance on how to deal with their emotions.

Parenting Style #4: The Emotion Coaching Style

This style of parenting engages with the child and their emotions and seeks to understand them while also helping the child express their emotions in appropriate ways. “Tell me how you feel. I’ve felt that way, too. And you can’t hit someone when you are angry. Let’s think together about other things you can do when you feel this way.” There are five basic steps for this style of parenting your children:

  1. Be aware of your child’s emotions.
  2. Recognize emotions as an opportunity to connect.
  3. Listen with empathy.
  4. Help the child name emotions.
  5. Set limits and find good solutions.

Ephesians 4:26: Be angry but do not sin

While Paul may not have had the language of emotional intelligence, he does understand that a so called “negative” emotion like anger can be godly and it can be expressed appropriately. Not only that, he makes a case for emotional intelligence in the latter part of the same verse where he says, do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity for the devil.

What is Paul saying here? Does he mean that you need to make sure you go to a person and deal rightly with your anger before the literal sun actually sets over the literal horizon? I think not. Paul is encouraging us to deal with our anger, and the first thing we need to do is slow down and deal with our own hearts before we go to someone else. It is quite likely that Paul has Psalm 4:4 in view:

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.

Do you see what the Psalmist does? He acknowledges that anger can be expressed without sin, but one must slow down and deal with their own hearts before the Lord before moving forward. This is a call to self-awareness. But the self-awareness that Scripture calls for is one that has the kindness and mercy of God in view. What is an acceptable sacrifice that the Psalmist has in view in verse 4? King David says this in Psalm 51:16-17:

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

The next time you experience any emotion or encounter an emotion in your child, you would do well to slow down and ponder God’s mercy for you in Christ. Allow that experience to move you to engage with your child so that you can help them process their emotions and find helpful ways to express them. You might even have the opportunity to disciple them by letting them know just how the mercy and grace of Jesus is helping you to do this.

This blog borrows from two books by John Gottman. I would highly encourage you to read them both:

What Am I Feeling?
By John Gottman PhD
 
Copyright © 2017 Timothy S. Lane
Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.