September 15, 2021 Maranatha Christian Reformed Church

More on Relational Intelligence

More on Relational Intelligence

In a previous post, I introduced the notion of Relational Intelligence as an essential element in being a balanced human being. It is different than IQ, and mainly consists of Emotional Intelligence though there is more to it than that. The "more" is a kind of wisdom built on self-understanding, life-knowledge, people knowledge and, in Christians, faith in God working things out.

In this post I want to give a specific example of Emotional Immaturity in adult leadership in the church, so you have a clearer picture. We all tend to know what emotional immaturity in children looks like, but don't often recognize it in adults.

Example: I was a newly minted Deacon, attending my first ever council meetings of 24 to 27 men around a table, several smoking cigarettes and one guy had Dutch cigars. So you got an ashtray with your agenda. My first few council meetings were a matter of taking it all in and watching to learn how things worked. A few other stories -- such as one about how well some people were manipulating Roberts Rules of Order to emotionally sway what was supposed to be rational decision making -- come out of those first few meetings. Well, in about my third meeting (where whether to disallow smoking was an agenda item, which passed, leading to two break times for the next few meetings!) we were talking about some matter or another when suddenly one man stood up, slammed his Bible on the table and ranted (I won't try duplicate the accents)

"If this is not the true word of God for all of you here then I can't be here with you"

Unnamed Elder stormed out of council meeting and stormed out. We were all stunned. He was off agenda, for one. But it was pretty extreme behaviour for another. For a moment I felt the personal insult of it, and then realized I knew nothing of what he was upset about. We were talking about something else, so this was out of the blue beyond the blue haze in the room. For me, a few seconds later, his leaving was ok, so though I was surprised at his behaviour, I was not upset that he was gone. He had proven difficult in a few previous meetings, so I was thinking "Good riddance!"

But I was shocked that with a few glances and nods between some of the men someone went after the guy, settled him down, and brought him back in -- with no apparent reprimand or even comment on his tantrum being inappropriate! I vaguely remember that maybe the chair said that issue was not on the agenda, but my memory is not clear on that. I later saw that the Bible he slammed on the table was a KJV edition. He was one of the people who believed that the KJV had been given us directly by God himself and that other translations were "of the Devil."

This man's behaviour was extremely immature, and I can say in hindsight, revealed a very low emotional intelligence and low ability to manage or properly express his own anxiety. In his own mind, anyone who used another translation of the Bible was disobeying God, but he had no calm or rational way of communicating that, and instead did the "if you all don't conform to what I believe, then I can't stay with you" manipulation move.

The same end result can be accomplished with a calm explanation and an expression that it has now become too difficult to remain in a body that he believes is straying from God-ordained ways. That would be a more emotionally intelligent (and respectable) way to do it.

That is a prime example of low EI in an adult who was respectable enough to make it onto a church council in those days.

Anytime an adult makes those kinds of low EI rash challenges and starts threatening to leave for this or that reason, without being able to be calm and reasonable, without being able to self regulate, that is a time when leadership needs to double down on their own RI and recognize what is happening.

I have done it once in my ministry (before being an STM) where when someone started talking that way in a council meeting, I got up, walked to the door, and opened it, inviting the man out. Fortunately, that crazy impulse led to the man "waking up" to what he was doing, and apologizing for his threats to leave.

This is an approach or understanding of mine that it is important for a church I'm in to understand. As an STM, it is not my place to necessarily get up and open the door that way for someone making anxious threats, but is is my responsibility to help any church I'm in to understand how such folks can hold a church hostage. My next planned post will talk about that some more.

You can also click this link to view this post on the actual blog page.