Emotional Intelligence is Biblical Wisdom

Every so often, we have the privilege of recognizing the alignment between the best thinking that science can produce and the ancient truth of the Scripture.  The so-called war between faith and science gets temporarily suspended and, for a moment, we see the convergence of truth from both sides of the supposed divide.

Daniel Goleman and others have done a masterful job in bringing awareness and clarity to our current understanding of emotional intelligence.  His model of EQ consists of five interrelated traits.  These five traits are hierarchal.  They build on one another.  EQ begins with three intrapersonal traits: Self-awareness, Self-regulation, and motivation.  Resting on those three are two interpersonal traits: empathy and social skills.

What is worth noting is the alignment between emotional intelligence, as Goleman defines it, and what the wisdom literature of the Bible describes.  Wisdom is the chief pursuit of the Old Testament saint (and the New).  This wisdom can be shown to directly parallel the five traits of EQ below.

Further, we can see parallels between “wisdom” as described in the Old Testament and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:19-23 ESV):

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Notice the similarity between the works of the flesh and traits identified below as belonging to lowered EQ.  On the other hand, the fruits of the Spirit seem to be consistent with higher levels of EQ.

In the Goleman model, there is obviously no reference to a spiritual source for the development of these attributes.  In fact, all people (which must include believers and non-believers alike) are capable of making advances in this critical area of life, relationship and personal success.  For the Christian, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit however, is a great encouragement to the development of wisdom, high EQ, or what the Scripture often calls maturity. Pursuing higher levels of emotional intelligence is part and parcel of working out your own salvation.

EQ - Wisdom Chart 2

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3 comments

  1. I am a bi-vocational pastor, serving also as a leadership consultant, working primarily with manufacturing firms. We are teaching Emotional Intelligence to line-workers who have never developed proper self-awareness or relationship skills. I love how the Bible already has this covered! You nailed it. EQ is wisdom. Thanks for posting this.

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