Wise living often begins with emotional intelligence—accurate self-awareness and empathetic insight toward others. Columnist Justin Bariso reveals two simple three-word phrases that can help us apply emotional intelligence (wisdom) when dealing with challenging relationship issues.
The first phrase can help keep us from putting our feet in our mouths—as long as we think before we speak! That simple phrase is “I don’t know.”
Has someone disappointed you? Do you know why they failed to meet your expectations? Chances are that you really don’t know.
You don’t always know what another person is going through and what challenges they are facing in life. If you approach these situations with the simple understanding that you don’t know the whole story, you can seek to understand the bigger picture before you make things worse.
“When you practice I don’t know,” suggests Bariso, “you do more than give the other person the benefit of the doubt. You become less reactive, and more thoughtful. You build a bridge, instead of a wall. You strengthen your relationship.”
The second phrase can help us when we feel unjustly pressured or judged by others. That helpful phrase is “They don’t know.”
Has someone made an innocent, yet hurtful comment to you? Before you escalate the situation with a volatile response, take a moment to remind yourself that they don’t know why that comment is so cutting to you. That person likely is neither ignorant nor cruel—they simply don’t know.
Remembering these two simple emotionally intelligent phrases can help you wisely diffuse potential relationship bombshells before they have a chance to explode, causing lasting relational damage.
In addition to choosing to wisely manage relationships, we can choose to apply wisdom to a variety of areas of life. For instance, we can wisely maintain our vehicles to prevent potential roadside breakdowns. We can wisely care for our personal health to prevent expensive hospital visits. We can wisely choose educational pathways that will lead to prosperous and fulfilling careers. Wisdom can be applied to all of life.
Paul reveals the simple, over-arching phrase for living wisely and imitating God in every area of life: “live a life of love” (Ephesians 5:1-2). The ultimate wisdom is found in how we approach our personal relationships with others—we must live lives of love.
Love can only be experienced and practiced in relationships with others. You can love chocolate, but does chocolate really love you back? True love is reciprocal, and we live wisely by fostering those loving relationships. Be imitators of God, who loves us so much that Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice to demonstrate that love.
Connecting: When was the last time you admitted to another person, “I don’t/didn’t know”?
Sharing: In which area of your life do you most often experience situations where “they don’t know”?
- At home
- At work
- On social media
- At church
- With my friends in social settings
Applying: Read the two articles on emotional intelligence that are referenced in this lesson. Make a list of probing questions that you could ask to gain a better understanding of what others are going through in life. Pick two or three questions that you can commit to memory, and then share those with the other members of your class or study group.
Valuing: Do a self-evaluation checkup. Are you easily offended by otherwise innocent remarks? Do you ever speak before you think and later regret those remarks? Can you see the wisdom of the two simple phrases, “I don’t know” and “They don’t know”? If so, determine to practice those phrases next time it’s appropriate.
~ Chuck Burkeen