Is "book smarts" all that counts? No doubt, obtaining a good education is a great investment for the future. Parents, teachers and community leaders regularly give such advice. And it is well founded. The book of Proverbs, written specifically to younger people, tells its readers to "Get wisdom. Get understanding" because "Wisdom is the principal thing" (Proverbs 4:5 Proverbs 4:5Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.
American King James Version×, 7). But what if you don't do well in school? Is there anything you can do to increase your chances for success?
Over the last century, American psychologists have tried to find ways to measure wisdom or intelligence. Testing a person's IQ (intelligence quotient) has been one of the most widely used measures of potential success. For example, a test developed by psychologist Lewis Terman at Stanford University was widely administered to approximately two million American men during World War I to determine their intelligence. It was assumed that people were simply born smart or dumb and there was nothing they could do about it. Based on this newly devised test to measure IQ, the men serving in the U.S. military during World War I were assigned duties according to their perceived intelligence.
Similar to the IQ test, grade point averages and college entrance exams (such as the SAT and ACT) have also been used to determine a person's intelligence and as predictors of success. But over the years, many people began to realize that these indicators of intelligence were not guarantees of success. In fact, many apparently intelligent people have failed to live up to their perceived abilities. Valedictorians and people with perfect scores on their college entrance exams have been known to flounder in the real world outside of the classroom. And others with much lower scores have often turned out to be more successful in life than it was thought possible.
How could so many apparent contradictions be explained? Furthermore, is it possible to increase your intelligence? The surprising answer to this second question is, "Yes, some forms of intelligence can be developed." The purpose of this article is to identify things a young person can do to increase his or her intelligence and overall success in life. But before we consider these questions, we need to understand what is meant by intelligence.
Intelligence can be measured in many ways. Psychologist Howard Gardner of the Harvard School of Education wrote in his book, Frames of Mind, in 1983 that intelligence leading to success should be measured over a wide spectrum of intelligences, with seven key varieties. His list included the typical verbal and mathematical tests plus five other measures including spatial capacities, kinesthetic abilities, musical gifts, interpersonal skills and inner contentment.
In 1995, Daniel Goleman added to the collective understanding on this subject with a book titled Emotional Intelligence. Addressing the failure of traditional tests to accurately predict success, he wrote: "There are widespread exceptions to the rule that IQ predicts success...[more] exceptions than cases that fit the rule. At best, IQ contributes about 20 percent to the factors that determine life success, which leaves 80 percent to other forces" (p. 34).
According to this noted psychologist, one of the concepts representing these "other forces" is emotional intelligence - a brain function quite distinct from the verbal and mathematical-logical functions most often measured. As Goleman explained, "In a sense we have two brains, two minds - and two different kinds of intelligence: rational and emotional. How we do in life is determined by both - it is not just IQ, but emotional intelligence that matters" (p. 28). When Goleman speaks of emotional intelligence, he is referring to self-awareness, character and the ability to control impulse. The presence of these characteristics seems to be a better indicator of future success than the purely rational skills.
Interestingly, when the Bible instructs us to seek wisdom and understanding, it does so with the expectation that we can obtain this kind of emotional intelligence - it makes no sense to encourage someone to attempt something that is impossible to obtain. The importance of developing character—the ability to control our emotions and actions—is also addressed in the Bible. Proverbs 16:32 Proverbs 16:32He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city.
American King James Version×says, "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city." Learning to rule our spirit, that is, control our thoughts and feelings, is a form of intelligence that can be developed.
News stories abound where emotionally unstable people seemingly go crazy and shoot up a school or business when they feel that they have been mistreated. In such cases, rational thought and emotional control seem to be thrown out the proverbial window. The missing ingredient in so many of these tragedies is character - the ability to know right from wrong, choose right and carry out the right, godly action regardless of the circumstances.
Some people mistakenly believe character means denying all emotions. But such is not the case. Emotions have the potential to provide richness to life that is simply unattainable through other means. Those who have watched the television show Star Trek: The Next Generation have seen the curious observations of the character Data, an emotionless android, who tries to learn what it is like to have human emotions. This character comes to understand that though he has more rational knowledge and dexterity than any human, his lack of emotions prevents him from being human. He is emotionally neutral since he is unable to relish a great accomplishment or feel the sorrow of defeat or loss of a friend.
Emotional intelligence or character simply means living in a balanced way. Rational thought and emotions are balanced - neither completely dominating the other. When balance is not maintained, our life flounders. While the absence of emotion makes life bland and boring, overly intense emotions held for too long a period of time can undermine stability. Given this understanding, managing our moods and thoughts becomes a full-time job.
The key to emotional intelligence
Psychologists have discovered that emotionally intelligent people have a number of coping skills to balance the ups and downs that seem to accompany everyone's life. Such individuals seem to be keenly aware of their feelings and able to adjust their moods as needed. Relationship skills and dealing with anger are two areas where the presence of emotional intelligence is quickly apparent.
Concerning relationships, those possessing this type of intelligence are able to sense the feelings of others around them and positively influence others as the occasion may warrant. In dealing with anger, these same people have learned how to soften or dissuade their anger. They are not necessarily push-overs or apathetic; they may clearly explain their dissatisfaction. But they do so without losing control or going into a senseless rage.
According to the Bible, the key to this emotional intelligence lies in the mind. As a man "thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7 Proverbs 23:7For as he thinks in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, said he to you; but his heart is not with you.
American King James Version×). To help us develop and grow into our fullest potential, the Bible is filled with scriptures explaining how to think and act. In simplest terms, we are told to imitate Christ in the way He thought and conducted Himself (Philippians 2:5 Philippians 2:5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
American King James Version×; 1 John 2:6 1 John 2:6He that said he stays in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
American King James Version×). We are to let His mind be in us.
Increasing our intelligence
Now that we understand the emotional side of intelligence, we can address the question of how to increase our overall intelligence. Developing emotional maturity through the study of God's Word and learning to model the behavior He desires are vital parts of living a successful life. Unfortunately, many people do not realize the critical importance God places upon this aspect of our education.
If you would like to learn more about the behaviors and thinking God expects of us, request your copies of Making Life Work and Transforming Your Life. They are also available for viewing or downloading from our literature library on the same site.
Learning to think like God definitely increases our emotional intelligence. Why not enhance your education in this vital field as well as in the more traditional areas? You have nothing to lose and much to gain. YU