You all have very different religious backgrounds, what was writing the chapter on EQ and spirituality like?
Yes, we all come from very theological backgrounds, all within a Christian framework, but three diverse practices, and it really added a lot [to the writing]. Also, having both men and women writing gave us an invaluable male-female diversity in perspective. There were times during writing when the different viewpoints helped mold the tone; for example, Nadyne framed points in a way that could also resonate with women. Ray comes from a Lutheran- Episcopalian tradition and he was able to suggest we frame some things a little differently and speak to that group as well. I came from an evangelical background more on the liberal end of the spectrum. But coming together it allowed for us not so much to critique each others theological viewpoints, but to incorporate them in a positive manner. All of us coming together, providing a diversity of ideas and perspectives really added a lot to it [the book] I think, whereas if I had just written it all by myself, I’m almost certain it would have suffered. Not that I’m putting myself down, but without having all of them, it would have been different. We’ve all written different books, we all had different influences, so my challenge was to try and put all that together into something linear and coherent. I think very structurally, so, I think that’s why I was nominated to head the writing. By the time we reached the ninth chapter (on spirituality) one may think that we would have struggled most with that but we had already been working and had come to a consensus about how to approach that chapter. At one point, we drew up a Venn diagram and each had a circle with our commonalities in the middle- which wasn’t very small, but we weren’t all the same either- and once we figured out that centerpiece, the points of convergence, chapter nine was extracting the ideas from all the other chapters and working them with the places we converged.
Were other works besides Goleman’s work in Emotional Intelligence influential in the writing of this book?
Goleman’s work is obviously central, but we were also working with the body of research developed by Brene Brown about shame and vulnerability and the writings of Richard Rohr. Another author who has influenced me a lot over the years is Donald Miller, who wrote “Blue like Jazz” which covers similar topics as Brown but in a way that’s maybe more accessible for men. His work is a lot more spiritual in nature and very informal; I quoted him in my theses in school. An idea of his that I love is that ‘it feels a lot better when people like the real me rather than the me I invented.’ I think something like this can be very helpful to priests or ministers who often feel a pressure to be perfect and so create a false self that is ‘perfect’. That false self or perfectionism is what leads to a lot of unhealthy handling of issues and can also lead to burnout, it’s a big problem that ministers can face.
Have you heard feedback about the impact of the book anywhere? Can you share an example?
We’ve had some feedback where pastors and ministers and even people at DMU that have read it and said, you know what, that was pretty useful actually. Publicly, Aaron Perry’s review (in the Journal of Pastoral Care) which is very positive and it was really encouraging that a lot of the material in the book is very helpful. Something I hope is that ministers, pastors, priests- that they can put it on their desks and pull it out like a reference book. For example, ‘what do I say to handle this situation’? And have something that they can keep coming back to. Those are my favorite books. Those are the ones that I’ve read three or four times. I didn’t get it all the first time, but I knew that the concept was there and I could go back and refresh my memory.
I found that the first year [after publication] I was wondering if anyone was reading it at all. Once a year I get a report that says how many copies were purchased and what my cut is. Which is really very, very small, though that’s not that point. But from those reports I could see signs of how it has been distributed organically. Like that review, for example. The book came to someone’s desk or to the editors’ desk and he was asked to review it. Thus far it is in many libraries all over the country, especially in theological colleges. It is also international, in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Britain, the Netherlands, and Germany.
What would you like to see happen with the book?
My vision for it came from a statistic I saw that the average pastor or minister or religious leader, has an influence over approximately 147 people. So let’s say over 10 years, that 10,000 religious leaders have the book, read the book, and that positively influences their ability to lead in a sacred setting, then therefore the math is, that’s it’s positively influencing almost 1.5 million people. It’s that many more people having a more positive experience with religious leaders or ministers.
My dream is also to have the book introduced into spiritual formation classes so, I have been in discussion with Colorado Christian University to make it part of their curriculum. If pastors or religious leaders read it after formal studies that’s great, but ideally, I think the sooner they come in contact with this material the better. So, what I’m hoping to see, carefully over the next several years, is that its picked up by more Bible colleges, seminaries, and other institutions that educate religious leaders.
As we give our leaders the tools they need to be healthy, happy and effective, the more the rest of us reap the benefits as well.