Why God Gave Us Emotions
About the Guest
When they first married, counselors David and Jan Stoop didn't know what they were getting into, even after being raised in Christian homes. They didn't understand the dynamics of their emotional world. David would automatically shift to anger; and Jan would default to fear. Learn how they discovered the value of EQ.
When they first married, counselors David and Jan Stoop didn’t know what they were getting into. They didn’t understand the dynamics of their emotional world. Learn how they discovered the value of EQ.
Why God Gave Us Emotions
Bob: All of us have feelings that come out in our marriage relationship. The question is: “Do we know what those feelings are? Can we put names to those feelings?” Here’s Dr. David Stoop.
David: I had a couple come to me—some years ago—where, when she walked through the door, I said, “My doorframe charred from the heat of her anger”; you know? She sat down, folded her arms, and slunk into the couch. I said, “You’re very angry.” She said, “How astute!”—that was her response [Laughter]. So, we got to talking; and she started softening and crying.
I said to the husband—I said, “What are you feeling when you watch your wife weep like that?” He said, “Well, I think…”—I said, “Don’t tell me what you think / tell me what you feel.” And there was silence—he couldn’t do it.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Understanding what we are feeling and understanding what our spouse is feeling—
—that can go a long way to having a better marriage. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’m glad we’re going to talk about what we’re talking about today. I went to a conference—this was about ten years ago—and there was a speaker. A guy named Daniel Goleman, and he had just written a book on what was called Emotional Intelligence. You may have—were you at this conference with me? Do you remember?
Bob: I took notes like crazy because I thought, “That’s some good stuff.” He was talking about how people, who are emotionally intelligent, do better in life than people who have knowledge—who have I.Q. As he was talking, I thought—I thought about myself / I thought about people I knew—and I thought: “That explains this,” “That explains that.”
Well, we’ve got a couple with us today that are going to apply emotional intelligence to the marriage relationship.
I think it’s going to be helpful for a lot of listeners.
Dennis: I think it is, and they’re going to find out that your E.Q. is directly related to how successful you’re going to be in your relationships and your work. Was I telling the truth?
David: You are.
Jan: You sure are.
Dennis: Alright. That’s a pair of counselors who just confirmed that I was saying the truth—[Laughter]
Dennis: —with more than a little bit of experience. Dr. David Stoop and his wife, Dr. Jan Stoop, join us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome—welcome back to the broadcast. You guys—you guys are in our top 25-year reel that we are doing this year.
David: We’re honored.
Dennis: You were on the broadcast in 1993.
Jan: Oh my sakes!
David: —and 2003; yes.
Dennis: Well, you guys have three sons, six grandchildren—
Dennis: —and you have been married—count them: 59 years. [Laughter]
Jan: I knew you were going to say that. [Laughter]
Dennis: I guaranteed you—I told you I wanted to honor you for that.
Jan: Thank you.
Dennis: That’s an amazing accomplishment.
David: We were children when we got married. [Laughter]
Dennis: Yes; you were 12 years old. [Laughter]
Dennis: No doubt about it.
David: That’s West Virginia. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, you’ve written a book that Bob was talking about here called SMART Love: How Improving Your Emotional Intelligence Will Transform Your Marriage. And I’m going to add an additional phrase to that: “it’ll also help you equip your kids when they have relationships someday and they get married.” If you do a good job, as a couple with your E.Q., you can pass that on to your children.
Jan: That’s right.
Bob: Dr. Stoop, explain what emotional intelligence is. Can you give us just a working definition?
David: Well, emotional intelligence has four concepts within it: that I become aware of my emotions and what I’m feeling; that I manage what I feel; and then that I become aware of what you’re feeling, which is empathy; and then I manage the group—that’s been translated into the business world, primarily. You know, Goleman—in Goleman’s book—he talked about family relationships, and nobody really picked—well, I think there are some groups that talked about parenting; but nobody has really picked up on the family stuff, because it was almost taken over completely by the business world.
And if you score one point higher on the test—that they give in the business world—that means you’ll probably increase your income by $1,300 a year.
It can be changed—emotional intelligence can change. I.Q. stays the same, pretty much through lifetime; but emotional intelligence can grow.
Bob: So, a person with a good E.Q. has a good self-assessment / they’re aware of what they’re feeling. They can put words to it—they know how to talk about it, how to feel, how to describe it.
Bob: And then, they are aware how that’s—
David: Well, they manage it. They manage what they’re feeling. Then, they are aware of what you are feeling / others are feeling. And then, they are aware of the emotional—in the business world—they are aware of the emotional temperature of the group in the trade—in the business.
People with emotional intelligence—they say it’s probably the most important quality for a leader to have—is emotional intelligence—
—better than anything else: training, leadership skills, whatever.
Dennis: It doesn’t have anything to do with I.Q., though; correct?
David: Nothing to do with I.Q. and nothing to do with personality.
We have taken it and translated it into marriage. We have five competencies—they mirror some of the Emotional Intelligence, because it’s based on emotional intelligence: “I’m self-aware of my emotions,”—that’s the “S.” The “M” is: “I manage my emotions.” The “A” is: “I’m accountable to myself, willingly accountable to my spouse, and accountable to other couples.” Then, the “R” is: “I can read your emotions,”—which is empathy. The “T” is: “We’re comfortable together in the land of emotions,”—we call it.
Bob: Jan, let me ask you—when you and Dave first married, did you have good E.Q.?
Jan: No—just like that! [Laughter] But we were young—not 12—but we were very young. [Laughter] I don’t think we had any idea what we were getting into because—well, we both came from a Christian home, and we just assumed that we would do well; didn’t we?
Jan: We just sort of—
Jan: —but we didn’t do well those first few years. We had babies right away—I had two sons within a year and, then, a third son. Dave was getting his degrees and being a pastor at the same time. I don’t think we really understood what we were in for.
David: Well, it wasn’t around then either; but we sure didn’t understand the emotional world.
Jan: That’s right.
David: And most men are afraid of the emotional world. Maybe, they show it at work; but they never bring home their training—somebody could be trained in emotional intelligence at work—and very good at it—but never build a bridge to bring it home. A lot of traits men have in success in a business world—they forget that they are just as effective in the home.
But we just kind of muddled through. When we hooked into this, it was—
David: —it gave us a whole new dimension to understand each other.
We talk about what our basic emotional posture is in the book and where we go, instinctively, when there is a stressful situation—we go automatically. I automatically would go to anger, and Jan would automatically go to fear. Then, if we didn’t manage those very well, her fear would turn into anger. Then, we’d be in trouble like every other couple, where we’re yelling at each other; you know?
Dennis: What were you yelling at each other about? I mean, you guys describe your first ten years as the “Tribulation.”
Bob: The “Great Tribulation.”
Dennis: Yes; the “Great.” [Laughter] So, what was the essence of that, besides being your rookie decade?
David: Well, I was in ministry.
Jan: Yes; tell them—tell them who told you who you’re married to.
David: I was in ministry. The training for the ministry role that I was in was a parachurch youth ministry. I was told that: “Man; now, you’re now married to the ministry.” And that was a direct quote from what we were taught.
David: And I was dumb enough and naïve enough to come home and tell Jan: “Guess what? I’m married to the ministry.”
Dennis: To which you said?
Jan: What did I say?
David: You said, “I thought you were married to me.”
Jan: “Oh! I thought you were married to me”; yes.
David: But that was my priority; and so, my priorities were all messed up.
Dennis: So, on a 1-to-10 point scale, I want you both to tell me where your E.Q. was—1 being pretty low and 10 being excellent.
David: Oh, I’d say mine was at a 1, if that high.
Dennis: —as a husband?
David: —as a husband; yes.
Dennis: What about you, Jan?
Jan: Maybe 3/4.
David: —for you?
Jan: Definitely, not for you.
Bob: Well, as you bring that up, you said something, just a few minutes ago, David, about men not being good at emotions. Do you think wives, generally, have a higher E.Q. than their husbands do?
David: I think wives have a much higher E.Q. than husbands do with their friends—their girlfriends—but when it comes to the marriage relationship, I think the wife is—out of her fear of the response she’s going to get from her husband—is probably just as inadequately prepared as the man is, emotionally.
Jan: Or she holds back because she is not sure. A lot of women we talk to have tried to share their emotions, and they get shut down—they figure, “I’m not going to do that again.” Or it sets off more anger in that relationship because they do share. So, of course, we get sort of intimidated by that, and we don’t want to say that again or tell him what I’m feeling.
David: So, the husband and the wife really come at the marriage, both, ill-equipped, emotionally, to make it work—not that their emotional intelligence is less—but because of the reaction that the woman has to the man’s reaction, they’re both on very difficult ground.
Dennis: I personally believe the emotional arena is one of the least understood within the Christian community. We talk about how God created man and woman in His image. We understand that that has a sexual dimension to it—maleness and femaleness. We understand there is also the spiritual dimension that God gave man to reflect.
It’s clear to me, emotionally—God expresses a lot of emotions—and we, as human beings, don’t know what to do with them.
Jan: Yes; we truly believe that He made us as emotional beings—that it’s okay to show emotions. We also have to understand why God gave us the emotions—so that we could operate better in this world, not worse.
David: Well, the theorists pretty much agree that there are six basic emotions. Anger, fear, shame / sometimes called disgust, and sadness—are the ones that get us in trouble. Then, there is joy; and there is surprise.
Well, God shows anger. A lot of people are upset with God because He is so angry in the Old Testament. God shows—He doesn’t show fear because He is God / He’s omnipotent. He doesn’t show shame, because He’s not evil; He’s pure. He shows sadness. You see sadness in the Prophets a lot of times, where God was saddened that He made man. And He shows joy, because there’s joy in heaven when somebody enters the kingdom.
I don’t think He is surprised by anything, because He’s omniscient.
Three out of those six emotions are expressed by God, and we even have trouble allowing ourselves to express our emotions to God.
Dennis: I want you to comment on something; because I think some men / some women enter into a marriage relationship—not only not understanding their own emotions—but when it comes to being able to articulate what they’re feeling, they don’t know.
Dennis: Early in our marriage, I was very expressive. I would express certain things to Barbara, and I was pretty much in touch with what I was feeling. If Barbara was here today, I think she’d say, “I didn’t know what I was feeling.” I would ask her, “What are you feeling, Sweetheart?” “I don’t know. I don’t know what it is I am feeling.” It may have been anger; it may have been fear; it may have been disgust—as you talked about—but she needed some / a safe place to begin to demonstrate her emotions and learn what they were.
That really is what marriage is all about—two people learning, together, how to love one another and be a safe place—
David: Safe haven.
Dennis: —to express your emotions.
Bob: Well, and it is Step One. If you want to develop emotional intelligence, Step One is: “You’ve got to know what emotions are. You’ve got know how to name them. You’ve got to know how to be free with them and express them; right?
Jan: That’s right.
David: Several places in the book, we have a chart that shows the feelings that go with the basic emotions; but I add a couple.
Jan: Yes; this is important. At the top of the chart, we see those six emotions.
Jan: Then, under each one we give about—what?—eight or ten—
David: —eight or ten feeling words.
Jan: —feeling words that go with that emotion, which is really helpful because—
Bob: So, here is “Anger.” Underneath it, you’ve got: “furious, enraged, irate, seething, upset, frustrated”—that’s a Christian’s favorite word when they’re angry: “I’m not angry—
David: “I’m frustrated,”—well, that’s anger.
Bob: —“annoyed, irritated, touchy.”
Or here is “Fear”: “I’m terrified,”
“I’m panicky,” “I’m apprehensive,” “I’m nervous,” “I’m timid,” “I’m anxious.”
You’re saying there are words that you can kind of put your finger on and say, “Well, maybe, I’m feeling a little hopeless right now,”—
Bob: —that’s a form of sadness.
Jan: And some people aren’t willing—because they feel like it’s not proper to say, “I’m angry,”—and they might be feeling these other feeling words; but they’re categorized as anger. I don’t really think I was able to express my emotions—even though before we talked, I thought I did—but I don’t think that I really knew what I felt, and I didn’t think it was safe—yes—to be that kind of a person who talked about being upset or angry.
David: And our parents weren’t emotionally expressive. I never—the only thing I saw from my dad was anger, which meant that I could do anger; but I couldn’t do much else.
One of the things we suggest is that people make a copy of that chart, and laminate it, and carry it around so they can talk about it.
I had a couple come to me—some years ago—
—where, when she walked through the door, I said, “My doorframe charred from the heat of her anger”; you know? She sat down, folded her arms, and slunk into the couch. I said, “You’re very angry.” She said, “How astute!”—that was her response. [Laughter]
Dennis: Kind of scorched you back, right off the bat; huh?
David: She didn’t want to be there. We got to talking, and she started softening and crying. I said to the husband—I said, “What are you feeling when you watch your wife weep like that?” He said, “Well, I think…”—I said, “Don’t tell me what you think / tell me what you feel.” And there was silence—he couldn’t do it.
So, I took that list—or a list like that—and I said, “Do you feel this?”—you know. He said, “Yes,” or “No,” to “Do you feel…?” I went down a list of words, and he could identify them if I gave him the language. A lot of times we don’t have the language—
David: —to articulate or to express it.
Part of what I wanted her to see was he was emotionally challenged. [Laugher]He didn’t even know the language of emotions. It was like Greek to him, and she doesn’t understand Greek.
They were totally missing each other; and that’s not that uncommon, unfortunately. In marriages today—they say, “We don’t know how to reach across the aisle to each other,” emotionally, in a meaningful way and in a safe way, as you mentioned earlier.
Dennis: It’s not a matter of intelligence.
Dennis: They literally may not know—they can’t name—
Jan: That’s right.
Dennis: —what they’re feeling.
Dennis: So, instead of putting the person down—becoming the arms of Christ, who reach out to say, “I want to be tenderhearted, kind to you, forgiving of you when you misapply your emotions.” The family unit is incredibly powerful—both husband and wife—for learning this—but also with children as well.
David: One of the things they are trying to teach children today is: “Put your emotions in words: ‘If you’re angry, don’t hit your brother. Put it in words. Tell me what you’re angry about.’” Then, they listen to them / if they honor whatever they say, and they are teaching them how to identify what they’re feeling.
I think that’s a healthy move.
Dennis: We had six kids. I won’t tell you which one it was that had a problem showing their anger through biting, but their last name was Rainey. [Laughter] If you had a child—who was biting, or hitting, or throwing things—and let’s say they are three or four years of age, what would a conversation be with a little child who is older than a toddler?
Bob: Ask Grandma how she’d handle this.
Bob: That’s what I want to know. [Laughter]
Dennis: You’d offer them Jelly Belly®s; wouldn’t you?
Jan: I do have a five-year-old—
David: —who is angry.
Jan: —who is angry. We’re trying to figure that out ourselves; but we’re also trying to teach her, when we have her—we have her a lot, because they don’t live very far from us—not to have to be angry. There are others ways to talk to me about it. We say, “What’s bothering you right now?” And she’s old enough—maybe, four would be difficult; but five—she’s able to come up with some things. She told me about a babysitter—
—who really did a really hard thing with her and caused her to fall on her bike and all that—but if I can get her to talk about those things, it really helps her be free with me, at least, and going to be freer with her mom and dad too.
David: It lowers the language of her frustrations, as well; because she’s had somebody listen to, and hear it, and affirm it.
Dennis: Okay; I’m going to give both of you an assignment. I’m going to ask you, Jan, to speak to the husbands, who are listening right now, who may be married to a wife who doesn’t know how to express her emotions; and it baffles the husband.
Dennis: He just goes, “What do I do?” What’s the single, best piece of advice you would give a husband in loving his wife?
Bob: And this would be the husband who, when he says to his wife, “What’s wrong?”—
Bob: —she says: “I don’t know. I don’t know”; and he goes, “How can you not know what’s wrong?!”
Jan: [Laughter] Well, I’m going—really, though, copy something that Dave tells them; because it works for me too. If I could say to that husband: “Watch my face. Tell me what you see on my face. I want you to make a note of what you see; because when I look like this, I’m showing emotion.” We’ve really gotten into how the facial features show the emotion. You can go ahead and tell them about who is it that has studied this so many times.
David: Oh, [Paul] Ekman from the University of San Francisco talks about emotions revealed. The universal language of the emotions is the face. So, I tell husbands in a workshop: “You’re going to have to learn to be comfortable in the world of emotions. The way you start is watch your wife’s face. When you see a look you don’t understand, say, ‘What are you feeling right now?’ Make a notebook and draw a picture of her look and write the emotion.” [Laughter]
Dennis: Make sure it’s a good picture, by the way; or you’ll have some more emotions to deal with. [Laughter]
David: You can keep it hidden. [Laughter]
Jan: Well, I guess further, into that, I would tell him that: “I’m afraid to say what my emotion is because it’s not been safe in the past,” and “I don’t want to cause things to be harder or more—we don’t want to really fight about it. So, I’m quiet. If you would just be open to it, and not correct me when I say something or get upset. Also, if I say what I’m feeling, just let me.”
Dennis: Alright; David, you speak to the wife, who may be married to a husband who is kind of locked up and, maybe, he just swings from one peril of the pendulum to the other—anger, and coldness, and silence.
David: Well, one of the things that I’d want you to understand, if you are the wife, is that he is afraid. You don’t believe that he is afraid, but he’s afraid of what he’s feeling.
If you press him and you push on it, you’re going to hit anger because—you’ve got to start with the assumption that he’s afraid, because men cover up their fear with anger. They are afraid, primarily, of being a failure. So, if you start to challenge him / you start to question him in any way that makes him feel like a failure, you’re working against getting the information you want. So, back down / slow down—recognize that he’s operating out of fear. In spite of what he says, he’s a scared little boy. Treat him like you would a scared little boy.
Dennis: That’s great advice! I do think men are a whole lot more insecure and fearful than we understand. It is the wise woman who knows how to believe in her husband, and love him, and create a safe haven for him to be imperfect and not reject him. That’s really what Christian marriage is all about, Bob.
Bob: You’re saying that a lot of what comes out as anger may be hurt or fear in a husband’s heart. It’s just that anger is the only way he knows how to express it?
Dennis: Exactly. And that’s why a book like what the Stoops have written here, SMART Love—I think a lot of people really do love each other / they just need some equipping, by a couple, who have been around the barn—
Jan: —the block.
Dennis: —or block a few extra times. And this book, SMART Love, would really be a great book to take on a planning weekend, on a getaway, a date night—and just take a chapter at a time. Maybe, read it in advance—you take one color pen, and he takes the other. You write down your notes, and then get together and talk about it, and then move on to the next chapter.
Bob: We have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com to order SMART Love: How Improving Your Emotional Intelligence Will Transform Your Marriage. It’s by Drs. David and Jan Stoop.
You can order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order at 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, we want to talk more about how we can cultivate emotional intelligence in our marriage—what we can do to get smarter in the area of our feelings toward one another. Dave and Jan Stoop will be back with us tomorrow. I hope you can be back as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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