Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, “Learning to Walk in the Dark,” is challenging me to rethink pain, suffering and brokenness. She claims that we are not taught, nor do we do a good enough job of teaching our children, how to walk in the dark or how to accept our pain as inevitable part of drawing closer God. When we think of pain we think of a physical or physiological reaction. Suffering, on the other hand, is an emotional reaction to our pain. She alludes to the fact that suffering is almost optional. This is where I struggle. Surely people can overcome this emotion of suffering. But maybe, just maybe our suffering can help us to understand Jesus and the suffering he endured on the cross. Maybe the point of suffering is what we do with it. It seems to me that suffering is a large part of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith experience. That suffering can be a holy action, if it draws us closer to emptying ourselves to be more like God. Suffering for the sake of others, is at the center of the Christian faith.
Just like any emotion suffering is neither good or bad, it just is. Anger is neither good nor bad, it just is. Anticipation is neither good nor bad it just is. According to Greater Good Magazine, Science-Based Insights for a Meaningful Life, there are 27 categories of emotion, which fall into the basic subsets of joy, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, trust, disgust, and anticipation. While emotions rule our lives, they are elusive to control, life happens and then we express ourselves through these emotions. It is in the awareness of our emotions that we can choose how we employ our emotions. More teaching on the gifts and challenges of our emotional health would be beneficial to our children and to our whole community. We often hear of using our IQ (Intelligent quotient) as a gauge for our academic prowess, but I think these days we need to be more aware and help people strengthen their EQ (emotional intelligence). It is possible to strengthen our EQ.
A couple ways to strengthen EQ is to turn our self-focus into other-focus. For example, being able to listen, being willing to change your mind, being able to appreciate other’s individual strengths, challenges and beliefs. This type of engagement helps us to be more collaborative, helps creativity and helps us be better as a group dedicated to a common goal.
Another way to raise our EQ is to control temper tantrums, it sound childish, but we all know those people who turn excitability and passion into out right shouting matches, or mean posts and tweets. There is a place for emotional transparency but being able to center oneself for the sake of the community is a welcome respite in a world full of loud lambasting bullies.
Humility even fake humility has a place in our EQ. The opposite of a humble person, is arrogant and forceful. A successful leader is one who is self confident, yet modest, and the ability to admit mistakes.
Except for the time when Jesus overturned the tables in the temple, we rarely see Jesus’ anger get the best of him. I bet Jesus’ EQ was off the charts. He had plenty of opportunities to be angry with his disciples and friends, but mostly he remained calm cool and collected. Jesus was definitely a humble leader, washing feet, letting all the children climb upon his lap, telling stories to prove a point and not requesting any special favors from anyone. During this time of Lent, I mostly see Jesus as the suffering servant, literally pouring out his life for the sake of the world. Jesus was not self-centered or self-serving, he was totally other focused. Well, except for the time, near the end of his life when he cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” But those were not his last words, for he humbled himself even into death saying, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Noblesville’s Teri Ditslear is a pastor whose column appears Saturdays in The Times. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or at www.rolcommunity.com.