Nasrudin — the protagonist of many Middle Eastern, Greek and Russian folktales — was approaching the door of his house one night when he suddenly realized he had lost his key. He tried to look around for it, but the night was so dark he could hardly see the ground. So he got down on his hands and knees and examined the ground where he was standing. Nevertheless, it was still too dark to see anything.
Moving back toward a street lamp, he again got down and began a meticulous examination of the area. A friend came by and noticing him, asked what he was doing. Nasrudin replied, “I lost my key and am looking for it.” So the friend too got down on his hands and knees and began to search. After a while, the friend asked, “Do you remember where you might have lost the key?” “Certainly,” answered Nasrudin, “I lost it in my house.” “Then why are you looking for it out here?” “Because,” answered Nasrudin, “the light is so much better here.”
We are all considerably more like Nasrudin than we like to acknowledge. We search for a solution to the problem that we have, but we tend to look for it outside of ourselves, where it seems easier to search. Nevertheless, the key is inside, in the dark.
In this post, I would like to begin to talk about the process of developing emotional intelligence with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You could try to gain emotional intelligence on your own with self-control. However, only your Maker can help you achieve the mind of Christ. Any other transformation in your life that you try to make separated from God is in vain because our heart (mind) is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jer. 17:9
The first step in emotional intelligence is self-awareness. In my experience as a pastor and a therapist, I have noticed that sincere people have focused on knowing God and tended to ignore knowing themselves. The consequence is what bring people to call me asking for spiritual guidance and professional help. I have seen grievous marriages betrayed, families destroyed, ministries shipwrecked, and endless numbers of people damaged.
Leaving the self out of your spiritual journey is not living the reality of your life. For example, living a spiritual life while failing to know ourselves deeply may produce an external form of piety, such as one of the Pharisees, but we know that this only leaves a gap between appearance in front of our church and the reality of our life. This incongruence in our life produces what psychologists call a cognitive dissociation. That is, trying to live a life not according to the reality of your beliefs. San Agustin says, “How could you get to know God when you are so far from yourself? And he prayed, Lord, help me to know myself, so I could get to know you.”
What is self-awareness? It is to see ourselves clearly, aware of our thoughts, emotions, motives, and patterns. In addition, it is understanding how hurt has led us to view ourselves and others in maladaptive ways. You may be asking yourself, why do I have to focus on my inner life instead of focusing only in God and His power? If we don’t know ourselves, we can’t know God either. We will not be able to understand others nor empathize with them. Also, we cannot change something that we are not aware of. If we don’t know ourselves, we will not be able to invite the Holy Spirit into our story to operate His transformational power. The Holy Spirit never forces himself into our story because we have free will. Without self-awareness, we are doomed to failure because there is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of the self, and no deep knowing of the self without a deep knowing of God. For this reason, John Calvin wrote, “nearly the whole of sacred doctrine consists in these two parts: knowledge of God and of ourselves.”
If this is your experience today, don’t allow the devil to distract you with guilt. The Holy Spirit is calling you to a deep personal encounter with God and yourself. Open your heart and pray with me: Search me [thoroughly], Oh God, and know my heart (mind); test me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:23-24 (AMP). This is the beginning of your transformation.