Mar 062009

Continuing the series on “Developing emotional maturity – part 7 of many”. [cf. part 1: what is emotional maturity? part 2: how to develop emotional maturity; part 3: spiritual maturity; part 4: emotional intelligence; part 5: emotional immaturity; part 6: depression]

The analogy that I’ve been kicking around in my head is how some people seem to behave emotionally like a child vs. a teenager vs. an adult. And adults (people who are f adult age) don’t like to hear that they’re like a child emotionally. (After all, they’re going to act like a child upon hearing candid feedback, throw a tantrum or something.)

I found these Eight Stages of Development (developed by psychiatrist Erik Erikson in 1956) to be a useful list:

  1. Learning Basic Trust Versus Basic Mistrust (Hope)
  2. Learning Autonomy Versus Shame (Will)
  3. Learning Initiative Versus Guilt (Purpose)
  4. Industry Versus Inferiority (Competence)
  5. Learning Identity Versus Identity Diffusion (Fidelity)
  6. Learning Intimacy Versus Isolation (Love)
  7. Learning Generativity Versus Self-Absorption (Care)
  8. Integrity Versus Despair (Wisdom)

To developing emotionally could be described as, “… a learning – teaching process that… results in the [person] moving from its infant state of helpless but total egocentricity to its ideal adult state of sensible conformity coupled with independent creativity.

How can those emotional maturity be developed? Let’s not the “child” designation trip us up. Maturity is not mastery or perfection; most of us have areas where we can develop more emotional maturity.

Here’s a great list of practical how-to’s from Enhancing Children’s Emotional Development (Leah Davies, M.Ed.) In essence, it’s facilitating someone to handle their emotions by processing them together. [read the entire article for full context]

  1. Help the children gain an understanding of their feelings through the use of … interactive storytelling or role-plays.
  2. Teach children to identify and verbalize their feelings, as well as to read the emotional signals from other children and adults.
  3. Watch a child’s facial expressions, posture, play or art work for signs that a child is experiencing a strong negative emotion. Then offer constructive ways to defuse it…
  4. Accept emotional responses as legitimate, even if you don’t like the behavior the feeling produces.
  5. Communicate understanding and empathy by reflecting the observed emotion.
  6. Observe the child’s nonverbal behavior for clues as to how he or she is feeling.
  7. Avoid negative statements like, “Can’t you do anything right?” or “What’s your problem?”
  8. Avoid moralizing, humiliating, lecturing, denying, pitying, and rescuing. Instead, listen patiently and nod your head appropriately.
  9. Problem solve with the child by encouraging him or her to think of options and decide what constructive action to take.
  10. Keep lines of communication open.

This article titled “Social and emotional growth,” summarizes 4 practices for emotional development:

  • Continues to expand her circle of trusted adults. At the same time, maintains a closeness to a few special people.
  • Gains self-esteem from feeling capable and demonstrating new skills.
  • Uses more complex language to express her understanding of feelings and their causes.
  • Uses physical, imaginative, and cognitive resources to comfort self and to control the expression of emotion.

Developing emotional maturity is no cake walk. It takes a lot of patience combined with good judgment and warm, nurturing relationships to raise emotionally healthy, comfortable and cheerful children. [replace "children" with "person" or "adult"] It’s about developing concepts like trust, choices, limits, and knowing you’re free to feel what you want, and to control what you do.

Feb 032009

Continuing the series on “Developing emotional maturity – part 6 of many”. [cf. part 1: what is emotional maturity? part 2: how to develop emotional maturity; part 3: spiritual maturity; part 4: emotional intelligence; part 5: emotional immaturity]

Rhett Smith is putting together a great series of blog posts about depression. Not just depression in general, but taking a closer look at depression, burnout, and ministry.

[note: this is my personal opinion] What does depression have to do with emotional maturity? It’s about being emotionally honest. We all have struggles and difficulties in life — I don’t recall ever hearing someone exclaim, “Oh, life is so easy, it’s a cake walk!” Each one of us need a safe place to talk about the issues and burdens of life. Depression is one of those issues. Unfortunately, many (most?) cultures and contexts stigmatize these kinds of emotional and/or psychological issues, so that it is difficult to go for help and healing. As if the emotional issue wasn’t tough enough to manage already.
Continue reading »

Dec 122008

Continuing the series on “Developing emotional maturity – part 5 of many”. [cf. part 1: what is emotional maturity? part 2: how to develop emotional maturity; part 3: how emotionally maturity is connected to spiritual maturity; part 4: emotional intelligence and emotional maturity]

I confess I’m not exactly sure where to go with this series. I don’t have a road map or content schedule planned out. So I’m going with what’s at my fingertips. This chart comes from Soulwork Systemic Solutions, a coaching system developed by Martyn Carruthers:

And, Guy Kawasaki twittered this online Emotional Intelligence (EQ) test over at Taking the test just now (there were like 15 questions; I lost count), it told me, “Your results indicate an above average score on emotional intelligence.”

The people there wrote that Emotional Intelligence “refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. Some researchers suggest that emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened, while other claim it is an inborn characteristic.”
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Nov 172008

Continuing the series on “Developing emotional maturity – part 4 of many”. [cf. part 1: what is emotional maturity? part 2: how to develop emotional maturity; part 3: how emotionally maturity is connected to spiritual maturity]

emotional intelligenceWhen I searched, I found 199 titles with the phrase, “emotional intelligence” in it. That’s a lot of books on one topic! There’s even a Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations.

Emotional intelligence is not identical to emotional maturity. It seems to me that “emotional maturity” is a broader general category for someone’s emotional life. Whereas “emotional intelligence” is the whole science of quantifyingly studying and understanding human emotions, both individually and relationally.[*] It’s probably right to say that if one’s EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) is high, that person is more emotionally mature.

Let’s use this working definition: “Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify, use, understand and manage emotions.

What does that look like? Daniel Goldman describes Five Components of Emotional Intelligence, according to [ht: Sandeep Gautam] :: Continue reading »

Oct 212008

Continuing the series on “Developing emotional maturity – part 3 of many”. [cf. part 1: what is emotional maturity? part 2: how to develop emotional maturity]

Peter Scazzero is one of the few authors that compellingly connect spiritual maturity and emotional life. Since he’s got a couple of published books, that lends reliability and rings authoritative more than articles I’ve found randomly on the internet. [ cf. official website,, has resources for individuals, groups, and even church-wide; video introduction to emotionally healthy spirituality ]

Jay’s Library noted these 4 points from Peter Scazzero’s book, The Emotionally Healthy Church [read Jay's comments too]::

  1. It Is Impossible To Be Spiritually Mature Without Being Emotionally Mature.
  2. To Be Emotionally Mature You Must Be Willing To Look Beneath The Surface.
  3. To Be Emotionally Mature You Must Go Backward To Go Forward.
  4. To Be Emotionally Mature You Must Learn To Manage Pain.

Ginger comments about Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality book ::
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Oct 142008

Continuing the series on “Developing emotional maturity – part 2 of many”. [cf. part 1: what is emotional maturity?]

I think I’m (mostly) right there are (practically) no book titles with the words “emotional maturity.” There are a few self-published books about this topic. Strange.
And, there are quite a number of books on “emotional intelligence” and on “emotional health“. 2 that makes the vital connection between spiritual life and emotions are Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Church and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

Turning to the web, here’s a couple things I found on how to develop emotional maturity. When looking at information on the web, it’s not automatically reliable, even if it is in the wisdom-of-crowds moderated Wikipedia. Or, shall I say, especially if. Caution aside, here’s what the wisdom of the world wide web turned up about developing emotional maturity.

eHow‘s has this article with 4 steps to emotional maturity:
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Oct 012008

Let’s kick off a new series, “Developing emotional maturity – part 1 of many”.

What is emotional maturity? Emotional maturity isn’t something that necessarily grows with chronological age, i.e. you don’t get more emotionally mature when you get older. Some adults are very emotionally immature; some have never matured emotionally.

And, you can’t tell someone that. Telling an emotionally immature person they’re immature will get an explosively immature reaction. Childish. Not a pretty sight. And it’s too bad. It’s those emotionally immature people that need a lot of help, but how in the world do you help them? They have to want the help, like the alcoholic who has comes to the point of admitting they need help.

There’s a lot to unpack about this topic, as I began looking more closely at it, and as I review my own journey of emotionally maturing. Not to say that I’ve arrived.

I do think about this topic, and have to say that I haven’t come across great books or teachings on this. Don’t recall any classes or seminars on this. And, it seems that cultures have different categories for emotions and feelings, if the difficulty of navigating both Asian and American cultures is any indication.

Before I find out how does someone develop emotional maturity, let’s consider what emotional maturity looks like. From my quick scan of the Web, these are my tentative thoughts in process:

  • Emotional maturity is being responsible for one’s behaviors– both actions and words.
  • Emotional maturity is NOT controlling one’s emotions. It’s controlling one’s behaviors and choosing to act in a way that doesn’t impulsively give in to reactive feelings.
  • Emotional maturity recognizes it’s okay to feel. It’s human to feel the full range of emotions. It’s not okay to act out immaturely, definitely not illegally.
  • Emotional maturity seems to go hand-in-hand with developing mental health.
  • Emotional maturity doesn’t mean every person will feel the same way about a situation / stimulus / idea. There’s some kind of relationship between core values and emotions / feelings. Would you believe values can change?
  • There’s probably a fine difference between emotions and feelings, but it’s too close to call for me, so I’m using them synonymously. Add a comment to explain otherwise, ok?

James Burns says, Emotionally Mature People Are Responsible. Excerpt below:

Emotionally mature people accept responsibility for their actions. They don’t look for excuses for their behavior. There may be reasons or circumstances why emotionally mature people act in an irresponsible way, but they don’t waste time making all kinds of excuses. Emotionally mature people don’t feel victimized by circumstances or other people. Even when circumstances or events are difficult, they deal with them without resorting to blaming others. … It becomes the responsibility of the individual to overcome difficult circumstances that were not really the fault of that person.

Continue reading »

Sep 242007

I have a dark companion called depression that visits from time to time and won’t say good riddance and go away. Sometimes it stays too long, once for well over a year. Sometimes it stays for a brief visit. I hope this time it’s brief. When depression visits me, it comes with its entourage of dark clouds, negative thoughts and lies, heavy emotions and fears. For me, the triggers are usually stress-related. There are people who can eat stress for a snack and rise to the occasion. I’m not one of them.

Having a good friends and families network doesn’t keep it away. Neither does a degree in theology, nor spiritual disciplines of confession and repentance. There’s undoubtedly something wrong with me, just like Romans 7 describes, and it humbles me, it shows me how broken I am, and it evokes in me greater empathy for other people’s struggles and battles.

When depression stops by for a visit, it sure gets my attention. It clouds my thinking and it feels like drowning just to stay alert. It takes enormous effort to do 1 or 2 tasks a day. When the forecast is overcast, just showing up is winning half the battle.

Experts have said that depression is “anger turned inward.” I’m not an angry person. I don’t express my rage explosively against people around me. This made no sense to me until recently. Depression is my version of taking my anger out on myself. I can get angry at the world for being imperfect. I can get angry at myself for not being what I wish I could be. I can get angry at unmet expectations, unrealistic goals, and untimely interruptions. I get angry over not being more driven, more accomplished, more clear-headed on tasks, more focused. Call it an idol or a natural disposition of my heart, but I can’t easily get rid of it by mere confession. Unlike others, I don’t run from depression by going to addictions or accomplishments.

When depression visits, it usually brings a big life lesson with it. Lessons like: take better care of yourself. Humbly ask for help. I can’t do it alone. Life is good, it’s not so serious. Enjoy a good night’s sleep. Write it down and stop thinking so hard. God loves you just the way you are, not as you should be. Do what you’re good at and what you enjoy, nothing more, nothing less. I just wish those lessons could come without having to go through those dark tunnels.

Thanks be to God that this world is not all there is, and He’ll make good on my yearning for a better world. And God will give me the grace and strength to be a part of that better world.

Plus, just found out that Pastor Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church (also a Dallas Seminary alumni) had a recent bout with depression, and lived to tell about it at a DTS Chapel (video and audio) and on FamilyLife Today and the impact of depression on a marriage.

[Caveat: depression is a complicated manner, so my story is not gospel. Please seek appropriate help if needed.]

[update 10/10] blogger Real Live Preacher eloquently shared about his bouts with depression too– Depression Part One: Admitting You Might Have a Problem, Thoughts on Depression After Five Months of Medication, and several other times

Sep 192007

When I write down my life slogan, it’s “seeing life change up close”. I’ve heard Rick Warren say that he’s addicted to changed lives, and that propels him to do what he does with growing his church’s attendance, even though it’s not about numbers. I haven’t quite figured out what actions I’m propelled to do for what I like to see. I do know that it takes a particular finesse to cultivate access to another person’s heart, which is where I believe life change happens.

I’ve gathered random bits of data for this series of posts. There are different approaches to facilitating life change. (I know I am in desperate need for life change myself. Yet, I also am discerning how to live out of how I am made, rather than being someone I’m not.)

According to this article, there are only 3 things that motivate people to change:

  • pain – emotional or physical pain gives motivation to change
  • pull forces – transition in life stages or response to inspiration
  • push forces – motivation from someone else or circumstances

I’ve heard great things about the 12 steps to recovery, originally defined by Alcoholics Anonymous. Having met people who’ve been through this kind of a process and really work it, I’m amazed by their honesty, vulnerability, and profound life change:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His Will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The Twelve Steps for Christians is enhanced with Scriptural references, and explicitly names God as the “higher power”.