Why do we wound each other with harsh words?
In attempting to answer this question, we are peering deeply into the human heart to see why people do what they do. This is quite difficult, however, since we can’t see inside a person’s heart. Nevertheless, here are some random thoughts:
First, people (some more than others) struggle to manage their emotions. Author Daniel Goleman refers to this phenomenon as lacking emotional intelligence. Simply put, emotional intelligence refers to the ability to manage your emotions and to respond properly to the emotions of others. Furthermore, this involves the ability to understand your emotions. In my mind, lacking emotional intelligence is equivalent to lacking self-awareness.
In his books Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Emotionally Healthy Church, Peter Scazzero argues that spiritual maturity entails emotional health. I agree. Simply put, if you have a PhD in systematic theology yet behave like an emotional infant, then you’re not spiritually mature.
Second, people fail to exercise self-control. In a social media filled world this may sound crazy, but it’s true: We don’t have to articulate every thought that comes to mind. Instead, we pray, asking the Lord to guard our mouths (Ps. 39:1). A person with self-control displays wisdom. Proverbs 11:12 says “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,” and Proverbs 14:17 reminds us: “A man of quick temper acts foolishly.” Who can forget Prov. 16:32? “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Remember that as a believer in Jesus Christ you have renounced self-lordship (Lk. 9:23). You are not your own (1 Cor. 6:19). You no longer worship your desires. You now welcome the mini-deaths that make up your daily reality.
Third, we haven’t had good role models. I’m not playing the victim card on this one, I promise. Rather, I’m saying that poor relational skills tend to run in families. Few people make it out of their families of origin as emotionally whole people. Most parents have not taught their children how to relate well to others. And here’s the thing, parents: This is more caught than taught. When your children see you throw an adult tantrum, they’re learning how to process their own emotions the same way. In my experience, those who haven’t learned how to process their emotions well tend to be passive-aggressive, giving others the silent treatment and angry looks, settling for a passive pleasantness, while fuming on the inside.
Fourth, we haven’t disciplined ourselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). People may say they don’t have to attend church to be a Christian, but all the strong, mature believers I know rarely miss church. Additionally, all the godly people I know read the Bible and pray regularly; they love and serve others, and show hospitality. In other words, they’ve disciplined themselves for the purpose of godliness, and this includes making community—life in the church—a priority. Again, Proverbs sheds light on this facet of our walk with God: “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desires; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1).
As I say on most of my blogs, this post isn’t meant to be comprehensive. These are some thoughts that came to mind and what I’ve seen in my life and ministry.
Dear Pastor Joe:
You have my admiration and respect for addressing the issue of emotional health in the Church. I loved reading this blog this morning and am about to print it out for reference in my continuing conversations with Christians.