By Mary Jacob
With edits, additions and formatting by Stephanie Nannen and Jason Poon
Maturity is the growth and development of a deepening and abiding life of love and faith in Christ, that happens over time. Holistically, it is about becoming who God created us to be; it is the development of all our capacities as a child of God—in our unique identity, as a valued soul created in the image of God.
How well do we love others? How do we respond or react in conflict? Do we know and acknowledge how we’re really feeling? Are we honest with God, ourselves, and others about our emotions? Those are a few questions to ponder when it comes to this topic of emotional maturity.
Emotional maturity is an important—but often overlooked—aspect of our holistic transformation process. Some of us might feel uncomfortable even talking about our emotions, let alone allowing ourselves to feel them deeply. But growth as a believer encompasses learning to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In other words: God is committed to meeting us in every area of our lives, including our emotions.
Many of us grew up with an undeveloped or unhealthy perspective on human emotion. We might have learned to divide our emotions into two categories: good/positive emotions and bad/negative emotions. But the truth is, emotions are morally neutral. They’re not good or bad—they just are. Emotional maturity is about learning to acknowledge, name, and integrate emotion—both ours and others’—into the rest of our life.
Think of your emotions as a warning light on the dashboard of your car. You’re cruising down a crowded freeway at top speed when that warning light flashes on. What do you do? Do you slam on the brakes until you come to a full stop in the middle of traffic? No, that would be dangerous. Do you ignore the light and continue driving as though nothing happened? No, that might be just as dangerous. What you should do is take the next exit, pull over in a parking lot, and pop the hood to figure out what’s going on underneath there.
Emotional maturity begins with “looking under the hood” of our own hearts. What’s going on in there? Can we name what it is we’re feeling? Many of us have spent our lives suppressing our emotions, hiding them away where no one can see them. Perhaps we’ve been afraid of how others would judge us for our emotional responses. Or maybe we were afraid if we let our emotions out, they would overwhelm us with their intensity.
But as we become more aware of areas of our lives we have previously hidden away, and bring them into the light, we see how God wants to meet us in those areas. Allowing God in helps us build bonds of connection based on intimacy, safety, and trust. Over time those connections will grow, as will our capacity to be with, identify with, and empathize with others.
Holistic transformation and emotional maturity go hand-in-hand because as growth happens, you become more of the person God created you to be. Emotional maturity changes how you view yourself and others. Holistic transformation cannot happen without emotional maturity. The article “Epic is About Emotional Maturity and Holistic Transformation” reminds us that “God wants our development and transformation to be more than cognitive. Our development and spiritual transformation are to touch every area of our lives!”
FOR GROUP STUDY
- Read the first 22 verses. What emotions was the psalmist experiencing? How can you tell?
- Are there particular verses of the psalm that you resonate with? What emotions are being stirred within you as you read them?
- Do you feel comfortable laying bare your raw, unfiltered thoughts and emotions before God? Even thoughts you know on a cognitive level are wrong? Even emotions that feel culturally inappropriate?
- Now read the rest of the psalm. The psalmist seemed to experience a dramatic shift in perspective, starting in verse 23. What do you think happened?
- What is going on in this story? Why did Jesus weep?
- In Epic we emphasize being with people as they walk through emotions. How does Jesus live this out in this story?
- How would the story have gone differently if, when Martha blamed Jesus for Lazarus’ death, Jesus laid out a logical defense for why he delayed coming to her?
It’s out of our own maturity, security, and emotional capacity that we explicitly or implicitly determine what topics are open for discussion and which ones will be silenced. We must recognize that spiritual reproduction is happening, whether we are trying to accomplish it or not, as we model (even unconsciously) and live out our leadership. We must be aware of the influence and impact of our own maturity and capacities, on those we lead.
Emotional maturity and holistic transformation are important areas for us to focus on—for our own sake, as well the sake of the people we live in community with. Opening our heart—with all of its messiness—to God allows us to experience acceptance, love, and intimacy on a deeper level, which changes us in profound ways. When we rest securely in the safety of God’s presence, we are able to expand the space we hold open for others, and all of their messiness too.
- How comfortable are you with sitting with others in their pain and sadness, without trying to fix it in some way? How comfortable are you with sitting alone in God’s presence with your own pain and sadness, without trying to fix it in some way?
- If you could describe your present life as a season, what would it be?
- What are some barriers that prevent you from growing in emotional maturity?
- How has your upbringing affected your perception on this topic? How have you seen your family of origin in terms of emotional maturity and holistic transformation?
- Share with the team one way your family or cultural background has impacted the way you think about emotions.
- Do you feel like there are any emotions or topics that are “off-limits” for your team to acknowledge or discuss?
- The Scriptures exhort us to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” On a scale of one to ten, how strong is your team at being with each other emotionally?
- How can we know if students under our spiritual care are growing in emotional maturity?
- What are ways we focus on holistic transformation? How can we take steps to grow in leading our movement in this area?
- Do our students feel like we care about them as a whole person, or do they experience us as only being concerned about the spiritual area of our lives? How does the way we practice discipleship impact our students’ views about holistic transformation?
Have everyone on the team take this personal assessment. Then come together and share with the team: What is one thing you learned about yourself from the assessment? Then take some time to discuss as a team whether this assessment —or something similar—would be a helpful tool to use with students in your movement. If so, make a plan for how that will happen.
- Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It’s Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature by Peter Scazzero
- How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage by Milan and Kay Yerkovich (Author), Kay Yerko
- The Cry of the Soul: How Our Emotions Reveal Our Deepest Questions About God by Dan Allender
- Changes That Heal: The Four Shifts That Make Everything Better by Henry Cloud