by Roy M. Oswald and Arland Jacobson
Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Md. 206 pages
REVIEWED BY ROBERT A. (BOB) HARRIS
The introduction states, “This is a book about the importance of emotional intelligence in the culture and dynamics of congregational life, with Jesus as the exemplar. Our hope is that viewing Jesus through the lens of emotional intelligence will actually advance our understanding of Jesus.”
Roy Oswald and Arland Jacobson offer pastors an introduction to emotional intelligence (EQ) and its importance. They write, “You may be a brilliant theologian, excellent at biblical exegesis, an outstanding preacher, a great pastoral care provider, and even give your body to be burned, but if you are not emotionally intelligent, your ministry as a parish pastor will be difficult.”
In 1995, Daniel Goleman of Case Western Reserve University, published his groundbreaking book “Emotional Intelligence,” asserting that EQ is more important that IQ for having a successful and joyful life. His work has been the foundation for probably thousands of academic research, books and articles on management. He and subsequent thought leaders have shown that even if one cannot grow much in IQ, they can grow in their EQ.
Oswald and Jacobson organize their book around some key EQ competencies, demonstrating how Jesus exhibited these competencies and how having such competencies will help anyone. They are:
- Self-awareness: ability to understand one’s own emotions and behaviors and their impact on others.
- Empathy: ability to understand others’ feelings and situations and to express your understanding to them. It is a sign of grace.
- Assertiveness: ability to express one’s ideas and feelings, neither being passive (unable to express ideas) nor aggressive (attempting to abuse or dominate another).
- Optimism: ability to see the positive side of life and the belief in a God of abundance
- Stress resilience: ability to flex with the inevitable ups and downs of life. Leaders with this quality can (using the old phrase) “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
Commonly used EQ instruments offer more specific dimensions to EQ, but the authors wisely choose to focus on key competencies. However, they go beyond the normal list of EQ competencies and identify two other of Jesus’ emotional competencies that are key to building his new reign of love: love of enemies and forgiveness. Loving and forgiving those whose behavior is destructive transforms both the enemy and oneself. It generates a new kind of community.
Emotional Intelligence is critical for vital congregations and for effective ministry. This book provides a fascinating perspective for seeing Jesus as exemplar of EQ. It gives a foundation for understanding EQ and, I hope, will encourage pastors and other leaders to grow in their EQ. Thinking about Jesus from an EQ perspective will help preachers communicate more effectively. Growing in EQ will help a pastor avoid many pitfalls. I commend it to anyone who seeks to grow in faith and strengthen relationships.
ROBERT A. (BOB) HARRIS is a semi-retired pastor and now a leadership coach and consultant. He is the author of “Entering Wonderland: A Toolkit for Pastors New to a Church” and lives in northern Virginia.