Community//

The Surprising Impact of Emotional Intelligence on Racism

Emotional intelligence is a soft skill often prized in the world of interpersonal relationships.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and though they are reviewed for adherence to our guidelines, they are submitted in their final form to our open platform. Learn more or join us as a community member!

Can emotional intelligence it be used as a tool to dismantle something as hard and ingrained as systemic racism? My answer is a resounding yes.  In fact, I don’t think that the structures, beliefs, and attitudes that form racism can be understood or addressed without it. In this article I am going to introduce you to the surprising impact emotional intelligence has on racism and how your church can naturally expand both its emotional intelligence and its ability to impact racism.

First, let’s define racism. As I write elsewhere, racism is not so much about individual bias or prejudice as it is about systems and structures that reinforce racial bias. In the United States, racism grants extended rights and opportunities to whites while minimizing access of those same opportunities to people of color. Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, past-president of the American Public Health Association, asserts that racism negatively impacts every citizen, regardless of race because it “saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources.”

So how does emotional intelligence make an impact on this persistent problem? Let’s take a look at three key tenets of emotional intelligence: empathy, motivation, and social skill. Then I’ll suggest how your church can tap into these tenets to address the sin of racism.

Emotional Intelligence: Empathy

Empathy is the willingness to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagine what it must feel like to be them. Empathy cracks open the door of white denial of systemic racism. The long list of Black citizens who have died due to police brutality, most recently George Floyd, has brought out a wave of empathy amongst people of every race. This empathy has found expression in innumerable forms of solidarity from demonstrations to protests to intensive studies to calls for de-funding police and re-funding social safety nets.

How Your Church Can Tap into Empathy

How can churches expand and harness the impact of empathy? Remind your community that empathy is a key teaching of Jesus: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and of Paul: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Emotional Intelligence: Motivation

Solidarity has led to an awakening. White people in particular are grappling with new understandings of the privilege they have been born into. And the extensive, if hidden, nature of this privilege. This burgeoning awareness is motivating people to educate themselves and people are learning how and why systemic racism has been perpetuated.

How to Motivate Churches to Impact Racism

How can you motivate your church to address racism? First draw upon resources in the Bible that highlight the importance of doing good “in season and out of season.” This wealth of resources includes the story of Ruth, the story of Esther, the teachings of Leviticus, and the entire life and death of Jesus. Immersed in these teachings, dare to begin your own uncomfortable conversation.

Emotional Intelligence: Social Skill

No other component of emotional intelligence has more potential for positive impact than social skill. Social skill is the ability to motivate others to go in the direction you want them to go. Another term for this skill is leadership. As you expand your social skill you can draw others into a positive shared vision of the future, one that undoes racism.

Church, Social Skill and Dream Like Jesus®

How can church leaders tap into their own social skill? Learn how to dream like Jesus. Jesus exemplified the very best in social skill. He called disciples, trained apostles, and empowered all kinds of ordinary people to heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim the Kingdom.

Churches must wade into troubled waters to accomplish this.  If you want harmony at the expense of uncomfortable conversations, you’re not alone. The fear of losing people, or of “being too political,” can give churches a good case of laryngitis. But it’s time to grow in courage.

Ethical Not Political

One last tip. Instead of thinking of dismantling racism as “too political,” consider the ethical nature of this quest. Dismantling racism manifests the Kingdom of God. It brings honor to people. It gives glory to God.  It’s worth the effort.

Still not sure how to expand your emotional intelligence? Reach out to me. You are not alone.

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Community//

    How EQ Can Help Disrupt Racial Bias in Business

    by Sean Clayton
    Community//

    The Courage to Confront Systemic Racism in The Workplace: A New Mindset for Learning and Change.

    by Joyce Odidison
    Community//

    What to Leave Out in Conversations about Race

    by Rev. Rebekah Simon-Peter

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.