“Rend your hearts and not your clothing.” Joel 2:12-13
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
In our planning meeting for the Volmoed Youth Leadership Development Programme (VYLDP) last week, we spent time discussing the skills we thought such leaders need. Among them we identified “emotional intelligence,” a term coined by psychologist Daniel Goldman back in 1995. Most people, he said, think that leaders need “intelligence, toughness, determination, and vision,” but these, Goldman said, are insufficient. As essential “are softer, more personal qualities.” That is, leaders not only need intelligence, they need emotional intelligence. In fact, “emotional intelligence” Goldman said, “may be the key attribute that distinguishes outstanding performers from those who are merely adequate.” Without emotional intelligence, “a person can have first-class training, an incisive mind, and an endless supply of good ideas, but he still won’t be a great leader.” According to Goldman, “emotional intelligence” is all about “self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.”
A lot of people in leadership don’t have these skills. Business leaders too often are simply tough, cold and calculating, making sure that their enterprises run well and make money even if this means riding rough-shod over people. Politicians are not normally characterized by emotional intelligence, especially when they debate in parliament, sometimes not even intelligence, as might become apparent once again later today. University professors, normally regarded as intelligent people with high IQs, do not necessarily have much emotional intelligence either in relating to students or colleagues, something I can verify. Sometimes, and sadly, this is also true of pastors and priests, teachers and doctors,, as it is of leaders in other walks of life who may have much talent, skills and brain power. Yet is it not true, as Goldman’s research indicates, that many of the problems in business, politics and education, to say nothing of the family and the church, derive from the fact that those in positions of leadership and authority, intelligent as they may be, are lacking in the emotional department. They lack empathy in their relationships with others, and those skills that build trust and community, and therefore also undermine efficiency.
So it was important that we recognised the need to help youth leaders develop their “emotional intelligence.” But it is also important for each of us to nurture our own “emotional intelligence”, not only if we happen to be leaders but because we happen to be human beings. To be truly human implies not just seeking to be intelligent but also emotionally intelligent. For some of us this is going to be more difficult than for others, especially those of us who are males because too often we were not brought up in ways that nurtured our emotional abilities. “Boys don’t cry!” We were told. Or our creative capacities were stifled. In my day, only girls and nerds learnt to play the piano. How short-sighted and dumb that was. No wonder so many of us suppressed our feelings and creative instinct, and did not learn how to handle either our own or the emotions of others.
Emotional intelligence, neuro-science tells us, is located in the right-hand side of the brain which drives our creative capacities, while rational intelligence is located in the left-hand side of the brain. But neuro-science also tells us that they need each other if we are to be balanced human beings, let alone leaders. The left-hand and the right-hand sides of the brain need to operate in tandem not in opposition, and it is only when they do, that we can become whole, integrated human beings.
When we speak, as we do at Volmoed, about making people whole, we are talking, in the first instance, about the integration of both sides of the personality. People, and that includes us of course, need to find a faith that makes reasonable sense, a faith that is intelligent if you like, but we also need the healing of the “heart,” that is of our emotions or affections, whether they are those of grief or despair, loneliness or fear.
But there is more to human wholeness than the renewal of the mind or the healing of the heart, more than becoming both emotionally intelligent and intelligent. For the journey into wholeness is about the recovery of our souls, and that begins when we come to accept that we are loved by the One in “whom we live, move and have our being,” embraced by the mystery we call God. This takes us beyond simply being aware of and sensitive to others, important as that is, beyond the skills that come with emotional intelligence, to those that come with “spiritual intelligence,” an intelligence that develops through faith and which expresses itself in love for others, compassion for those in need, a commitment to struggle for justice, and in becoming good-earth-keepers. All of this is connected to being both intelligent and emotionally intelligent, but it integrates them by taking them to a new level around a new centre. It is truly what we mean by saving our souls, that is, our journey into the mystery of God and love for the other.
“Spiritual intelligence” was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry and teaching. You can see this in the way in which he related to people, especially those in need, and helped them discover the reality of God’s love. How often we read that he was “moved with compassion,” or he wept with those who wept. In the Beatitudes he does not say “blessed are the intelligent, the clever, the educated,” or even the self-aware and sensitive, but he does say “blessed are those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are merciful.” He also knew that it is only those who “are pure in heart,” those who genuinely seek to love who truly discover the reality of God’s presence and grace and, in doing so become fully integrated human beings. The key words of “spiritual intelligence” are what Paul calls the “fruit of the Spirit”: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” (Galatians 5:22)
So what if our commitment this Lent is to become more spiritually intelligent, learning, as Paul says, “to live by the Spirit…guided by the Spirit.” Lent is, after all, the season in which we rediscover what really matters, we recover our souls. Lent is a time set aside for the conversion of our hearts, to “rend our hearts,” as the prophet says. It is a time for turning again towards God as the source of our lives and the healer of our souls. It is a time in which we learn to love again, a time in which we deepen our commitment, and become sensitive to the needs of others. A time to rediscover what really matters in life. in our relationships, in our homes and families, in our churches and here at Volmoed. A time in which we discover that our real treasure is where our hearts are. A time in which we open up our lives afresh to being surprised by grace and shout out “AHA!”
John de Gruchy
Volmoed 11 February 2016