In my last post, I explained the concept of emotional intelligence (EI) and why college students do well to develop it. But from a worldview perspective, what assurances can Christ-followers have that EI is a biblical concept? Not much has been written on the integration of a Christian worldview and emotional intelligence theory, but perhaps the most helpful resource available thus far on this topic is Ken Sande’s concept of Relational Wisdom. I want to be careful to point out that Relational Wisdom and emotional intelligence are not exactly the same. As Sande puts it, emotional intelligence is a “cousin” to relational wisdom. Still, there is sufficient similarity between the concepts.

In a nutshell, the Bible makes it clear that to be made in God’s image means we are, by nature, designed for relationships.

Sande correctly points out that God’s teaching on relationships is three dimensional, meaning the Bible emphasizes three kinds of awareness with respect to our relationships: God-awareness, others-awareness, and self-awareness. Self-awareness is a key aspect of emotional intelligence, and the Christ-follower knows that since our core identity is found in him—because we are made in his image—a keen God awareness is essential.

One of my favorite passages that illustrates both self awareness and God awareness is Psalm 139:23 “Search me O God and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts. See if there is any evil way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” By asking God to search his heart and thoughts, the psalmist admits he cannot be aware of everything about himself that needs to be transformed. In other words, he is self aware enough regarding his own limited perspective of himself that he is compelled to rely on God to see into his fallen self. The psalmist’s “God awareness,” itself a gift of grace from God, allows him to cry out for the help he needs.

What about others awareness?

The Apostle Paul demonstrates this throughout his epistles. Romans 12:15 says “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Here, Paul demonstrates a key aspect of emotional intelligence, namely empathy. This is the ability to put one’s self in the shoes of someone else and see the world as he or she sees it. Empathy is a non-negotiable in living a Christ-centered life, no matter what our current station happens to be.

Maybe you are in the middle of your college journey right now. How does all of this matter, practically speaking? Instead of just giving you my thoughts, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

How “self-aware” (i.e., aware and understanding of the emotional cause and effect that happens inside you on a day-to-day, and hour-by-hour basis) would you say you are right now, on a scale of 1-10? As a test for this, how composed are you, usually, when you have a stressful decision to make? How often do you productively contemplate a course of action and then move forward instead of a) acting rashly without contemplation, or b) being paralyzed by the circumstances such that you don’t really act at all.

How “others-aware” are you right now, on a scale of 1-10? Put differently, how tuned in are you to what others are going through and what they might be thinking and feeling?

In general, how much “God-awareness” would you say you have? For example, when you’re preparing for a seemingly impossible exam and starting to get stressed out, in that moment how aware are you of God’s presence? How likely are you in a moment like that to reach out to Him for help?

More to come in the next post on emotional intelligence.