Living Behind the Veil

I'm often asked what I wear in Afghanistan and what it's like to wear a veil. It's freedom. Freedom to have a bad hair day, freedom to arrange my chadar to conceal the curve of my breasts and backside, freedom to not be an expatriate for a little while. It means freedom to hide even on the street from the Afghan men's eyes which seem to strip me naked.
When I relax my shoulders and walk less purposefully, less confidently, my eyes downcast and covered by sunglasses, I pass for an Afghan woman. I hear the men whisper in Dari, "Is she a foreigner or local woman?" I chuckle but am silent. On the street, I'm also a free target....freely exposed to groping, sexual innuendos whispered to me as a man bicycles by, free to have stones thrown at me, freely seen as no one's wife, daughter, sister, mother, friend, or boss. I step inside my gate, and remove my chapan and chadar. Now I'm someone's boss, motherhood returns to me as little steps run to greet me, and I receive a kiss from my adoring husband. Now I'm free to his loving and gentle eyes which know and enjoy my curves, free to once again be under the protective umbrella of being a wife, mother, friend, colleague, boss, niece, sister, daughter, woman.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Effective Communication in Risk


A common question Neal and I have been asked is,  

"What does effective communication look like in high risk cross-cultural situations, especially between leaders and field staff?"

There are clear qualities of communication that are helpful, and clear list of qualities that are unhelpful and even increase the risk level of staff and increase the organizational exposure to risk.  

These qualities are more than "gut level."  As one leader stated, after talking with certain staff in a high risk situation the leader felt connected and described the feeling with "I got it," but when talking with other field staff, "I feel a lack of trust in them and that I learned nothing new." 

Effective communication practices of mature individuals are characterized by:

  • Transparency - of what is going on and internal feelings
  • Openness - of what is troubling and what are joys
  • Sharing of self - without having to be asked a million questions
  • Sharing of Ministry
  • Specific stories - demonstrating God's activity and their awareness of His activity
  • Volunteering of information
  • Initiation of communication with the leadership

Talking with field staff in high risk who do not share easily can feel like "pulling taffy" or like trying to draw out rebellious teenagers. There is a build up of communication experiences and behaviors that all point to a breakdown of trust between the leadership and the field staff.

Organizations with high risk tolerance often end up tolerating untrustworthy behavior that actually opens their organization up to a high and uncomfortable level of risk exposure.  

Ineffective Communication is Characterized with:

  • Defensiveness
  • Lack of transparency
  • Lack of volunteering information
  • Wielding information as power/tool
  • Closed communication (1-word / short answers to open questions)
  • Argumentative in a passive-aggressive manner (lack of inability to disagree nicely and work out differences of opinion respectfully)
  • Lack of Empathy with leadership and others
  • Leadership has the uneasy feeling that they are not getting all the information from field staff
  • Leadership commonly feels a lack of trust in the staff. 

Henry Cloud has a book titled, Necessary Endings:The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward.  In that book, he describes the 3 types of people Proverbs describes, and particularly, Chapters 5-6 talk about when to know when to end a partnership.  The more clarity there is for effective behavior and communication between organizational leaders and field staff, especially in high-risk cross-cultural situations, the more effective the ministry will be.  

The Millenial Generation is great at being connected, but not great at quality communication. Shepherding them well includes helping them become more aware of themselves. 

Our RAM Training includes some of the most dangerous attitudes in high risk.  Field staff demonstrating these attitudes possibly expose their organization to an uncomfortable level of risk than is already naturally present.  

Here is from our RAM Training Manual:
Studies show that what that most often prevents us from risk mitigation is our minds. During times of high risk, it is common for things to get in the way of our cognitive functioning.

Here are some common dangerous risk attitudes:

Defiance
While some degree of boldness is a positive mental resource for persevering through risk, defiance can hinder our ability to respond appropriately. Defiance causes a person to focus on winning instead of continuing.

ResignationThis dangerous attitude can sometimes look like fatalism. When we feel like there is nothing we can do to cope with dangerous situations, we are on unstable ground for sure.

Compulsivity
Compulsive people manage risk through action. The problem is that it is not a well-intentioned activity. Driving forward without evaluating the road ahead can be hazardous indeed.

Comparison

It is sometimes tempting to look at what others are doing when we are confused. That is not a completely flawed approach, however, but it does have limits and falls far short of mitigating through one’s own careful discernment and analysis. “So if everyone jumped off a bridge …”

Denial
Believing that we are somehow immune from being impacted by danger causes us to avoid dealing with it in the first place. To effectively manage risk, one must first acknowledge exposure to the threat.
For the sake of Christ and His Kingdom, it takes discernment to know when to end partnerships and move people along. These are not easy situations or conversations to have or decisions to make. May God give organizational, regional, and team leaders wisdom to know how to best lead field staff entrusted to you. 


(1) Sheep Behavior


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Human Hesedness

 Hesed, חֶסֶד


We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. 
First we were loved, now we love. 
He loved us first.  
I John 4:19, The Message


  • What does it mean to live every moment knowing first hand, experientially, that one is totally accepted, completely and unconditionally loved?  
  • What is it like to experience undeserved kindness? 
  • What is it like to be loved, even when I have failed, feel like a failure, and feel like everyone else seems to find me unloveable? 
  • What is it like to be loved even when others have rejected me? 
  • What is it like to have someone else simply enjoy me for me? 

These experiences of love and kindness are all too often uncommon experiences in our family relationships.  Most of us "perform" to get acceptance and love, and most of us give our approval and love to our loved ones by expressing "how proud we are of them" for their actions, for their successes.

Being loved unreservedly simply because we are is a life-altering experience.

Choosing to accept that love is even more transformational.  

Men and women who love like this are conduits of God's unconditional love and kindness.  In the Old Testament, His love is described with the word, "Hesed." It is found over 245 times and most often refers to God's unconditional loving kindness. This word is only found in Hebrew. There are no "cognates" in neighboring languages. In other words, no other god is described with lovingkindness.  He alone is a unique God above all gods.

Hesed  also has no exact English translation equivalent and is best explained through four related concepts: (1)
"First, hesed is benevolence toward another without prior obligation for demonstrating this act of kindness but within the context of some existing relationship.  Hesed begins with pure compassion within some already existing connection.  It might be bloodline, treaty, nation, tribe, group affiliation or any number of connections, but there must be some relationship between the parties. 

Secondly, once I experience hesed, it creates reciprocity.  When someone shows hesed toward me, I am then obligated to show it to him.

Third, hesed requires extension.  If I experience hesed, I am expected to pass it on to someone else.  I am expected to extend this experience toward another, not just respond to the person who started the chain.

Finally, it is obvious that hesed cannot be isolated to the individual.  Everything about hesed is relational. Hesed does not exist without community."
As Skip Moen also wrote, 
Hesed is experiencing the result of acting as God acts with regard to others, His creation and Him.   Love is a verb, a way of being in the world that fully embraces who we are together under the sovereign blessing of our Creator.

There is no biblical debate whatsoever that God is love. The only real question is whether or not we express the same quality...John equates our loving with knowing God’s love. It is fundamentally about others, not ourselves. According to John, if you can’t express benevolent compassion, trustworthy reciprocity and extended selflessness toward others, then you don’t know God’s love either."

Being loved by Neal has been and continues to be an experience of God's hesedness through Neal's hesedness towards me. Just as we love because He first loved us, so does Neal love well because of Christ's love for him and in him. 

The New Testament "mirror" reflecting that love in our human relationships is I Corinthians 13, where agape love is described. Agape is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew Hesed.
  • Commitment
  • Loyalty
  • Kindness
  • Faithfulness
  • Patience
  • Reliable
  • Humble
  • Durable
God demonstrates these loving characteristics thoroughly to me through Neal. How grateful I am that God preserved our lives through so many dangerous years and we are enjoying middle age together!

Indulge me for sharing this on our wedding anniversary today. Words cannot express how grateful I am for how Neal has demonstrated God's hesedness towards me these past 20 years.



The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love
1 John 4:8 

Let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, 
that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; 
for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord. 
Jeremiah 9:24


(1) Applied Hesedness


Monday, March 19, 2018

Spiritual Nobility


Christian persecution and genocide is worse now than it has ever been in history. Christians in Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, North Korea, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Egypt, and many other countries, are regularly imprisoned, tortured, beaten, raped, and martyred. Their churches are destroyed. Their houses burned. They meet and worship in secret, risking their lives in the process. They live every moment in constant danger.
About 215 million Christians face what is called “extreme persecution” for their faith. It’s estimated that around a million have been slaughtered since 2005. There is no way to know exactly how many. What we do know is that Christianity has been dramatically reduced in parts of the world where it had existed for nearly 2,000 years.(1)

To remain silent on the plight of the suffering Church around the world is blasphemous.(2)   Just as we (the Church) were silent for hundreds of years on slavery, as we were silent on the Holocaust unfolding in Germany, we seem to be collectively silent on the globally persecuted Church, especially when it is denominations not associated with ours.  

"Anti Semitism is Anti-Christianity, and Anti-Christianity is Anti-Semitism." (3) I would venture to add to Susanna's statement that "Anti-Any Christian group" is Anti-ALL Christians." 

Christians who have "siloed up" (Retreated to a defensive posture) are called to come to the spiritual awareness that we cannot do it alone, and we would be better equipped to join forces with all those who believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only Savior of the world.

This broadens our ranks significantly, to include groups within the universal Catholic church including but not limited to all sub-groups within Protestantism, Coptics, 7th Day Adventists, the Catholic, Eastern Church, and more.

Do we agree on all issues, including baptism? Of course not.

But every issue of theological conflict is addressed by Jesus, Paul, Peter or John in the New Testament. The thief on the cross was not baptized but Jesus said he would receive him in Heaven.  

When facing the point of the gun for the sake of Jesus Christ, many theological issues that divide us on Sunday mornings are no longer relevant.

Has the consciousness of the Church become a stone-cold fossil?

Is mercy and compassion gone? 

Our inability to even care to be aware of the plight of brothers and sisters denied basic human rights and freedom to worship Christ says much more about our view of God and ourselves than it does about them.

To see these Christians who would rather be shot dead in the desert than renounce their faith is to see our own faith as a shabby, pitiful, hollow imitation...Christians in the East forfeit their lives rather than forfeit their souls, and we forfeit our souls even though we could quite easily retain both.(4)

Who might we become?  Here are some beginning thoughts on

Characteristics of Spiritually Noble People: 

1. They have moral grandeur, and are not morally cowardly. They are morally complex, understanding that very few issues are simple. Very little is "black and white."  They do not give simple answers to complex problems. But even more significantly, they discern the meaning behind historical events and the future spiritual and moral implications of what is said and done today. They are able to see within the events of history from an individual, family, community, national, and global perspective. They are not xenophobic, isolationists, or overly nationalistic. Every human is loved by God and reveals His reflection in some way.

2. Richness of Inner Lives - they are increasingly integrated and whole human beings. They demonstrate the pearl of the Kingdom of Heaven reactively, naturally, even when under extreme duress (See Amy Carmichael's If: When Do I Know of Calvary Love).  They can laugh at themselves, demonstrating an incredibly rich perspective of God's view of themselves and others. Most all people from all cultures are drawn to these types of people, because grace and humor exudes from every pore. They have an openness and transparency to their own brokenness and giftedness.

3. Kind - they are kind to all people, even those who are unkind and demeaning back; they are kind to those who are condescending in return. They know what "Tough Kindness" is as well. 

4. Open to Mystery - Not reductionistic. Faith, piety, belief, even truth are not reduced to psychological are philosophical terms. They can hold in tension what is known and what is not possible to know, and to discern the spiritual reality operating behind the physical world and experience.

5. Empathy with God's Heart - they understand the Divine Pathos (emotion), and their relationship with God is dynamic and growing. They are open to new spiritual thoughts, and recognize their own cultural theology that is holding them back from fuller transformation in relationship with the Trinity.

6. Empathy with Others - They realize that pity and sympathy are condescending. Empathy is being able to enter into another's world, often through the use of imaginative mentalization. This includes being able to see the intentions and heart of others, even when not agreeing with everything.

6. Emotionally Complex - They can feel two opposite feelings at the same time and not be destroyed. They know what it is to feel a broad range of emotions and the meanings of those emotions.They can hold in tension two extremes, even internally. 

7. Humble - They are restrained in mercy and power. They have the ability to identify and name their expectations of self, others, and God, and their own unmet expectations of self, others, and God.


(1) Christians In The East Lose Their Lives, But Christians In The West Are Losing Their Souls, Matt Walsh
(2) Paraphrasing Susanna Heschel in the forward to Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity by Abraham Heschel"
(3) Ibid, Kindle Location 208
(4) Ibid, #1, Matt Walsh

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Twenty Years in the Other Direction = 40

Missed weddings
Missed births.
Missed baby dedications.
Missed graduations.
Missed Christmases, Easters, Mother's Days. 
Missed deaths.
Missed funerals.  I learned a friend died...a year after his death. I grieved alone.

There is a price we all pay for a lifetime call to overseas missions.  
People back home went 20 years one direction; We went 20 years in the other.

Culture, Theology, Philosophy, Foods, Clothing, Modesty, Music, Time Management, Language, Values, Politics, Health, History, Boundaries, Music, Cooking, Lifestyle...Richly influenced by other cultures, ways of living, ways of viewing the world, forty years now separate us.

Home. Where is it?  

My idioms are all messed up in English now.

It is only when we step outside of our culture, and begin to learn to see through another's eyes, that we can better "see" our own. Many cultures view themselves as superior, and many nations engage in nationalistic idolatry - binding together one particular political view point or party with "God's way."

This is not new, of course. "As it was in the age of the prophets, so it is in nearly every age; we all go mad, not only individually, but also nationally." (1) 

As we begin to understand how we've changed, we recognize what a blessing it is to see from multiple perspectives, to understand our home culture with increased dispassion, and to share the significance of those differences with others. 

"All the churches of Jesus Christ, scattered in diverse cultures, have been redeemed for God by the blood of the Lamb to form one multicultural community of faith.  The ‘blood’ that binds them as brothers and sisters is more precious than the ‘blood,’ the language, the customs, political allegiances, or economic interests that may separate them.  We reject the false doctrine, as though a church should place allegiance to the culture it inhabits and the nation to which it belongs above the commitment to brothers and sisters from other cultures and nations, servants of the one Jesus Christ, their common Lord, and members of God’s new community.” (2)

(1) Heschel, The Prophets
(2) Miroslav Volf, Christian Cultural Identity

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Going Into the Valley of the Shadow of Death





Beloved, our Cause is a worthy and noble one, for we serve the King of Kings.  

 “We will be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like a mensch, and be strong.” 
1 Cor 16:13 JCB

We fight a tenacious and cunning enemy whose mission is to kill and destroy 
all humankind. 

"Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus."
Revelation 12:17

So we are called 
to go out 
and fight Evil, 
to share the Good News

which is a call to physically go and serve
in dark and dirty and dangerous places
a call to ongoing spiritual warfare
a call to mental resilience
and emotional maturity.

It is not an easy call.
 It includes great loss, 
deep grief, 
sickness, 
and pain; 

We give up "Possibilities of success" in other endeavors, 
all for the sake of knowing Christ and making Him known. 

Because 
We will not sit by and passively accept evil; 
nor will we ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist. 

We will call evil by its name and exercise spiritual authority over it.  

The weapons of our warfare have divine power to crush enemy strongholds.
We are protected by the armor of God and weapons of light,
which is Christ.

We will keep steady in faith
in God’s power
which gives us victory
over the powers of darkness.

Yahweh says this to you, 
Do not be afraid, do not be daunted by this vast horde; this battle is not yours but God’s.
(2 Chronicles 20:15-17)

This day, 
this place, 
this generation, 
we are resolved
to engage in battle and fight and destroy 
the Gates of Hell in our neighborhoods, 
wherever and whenever we see them
by bringing the cup of cold water of His peace and His Love.

We engage the powers of darkness using Christ's power in us and through us to rescue men, women, and children who have been taken captive, 
whether from

the Tambora slums of Jakarta,   
the militarized Kabul city, 
San Pedro Sula's murder capital of the world,
Vermont covered in a haze of drugs,
Angola and Burundi stricken with drought,
Tallinn, a place of drug and human trafficking
the unsafe areas of Europe where refugees fight for survival, 
a world gone mad with drugs and guns and leaders drunk on power, death and destruction; 

We go together, as brothers and sisters of His Family 
which places no value on the shade of skin color
or the shape of one’s eyes
and which knows 
no ethnic boundaries, 
no higher caste, 
no royalty, 
no patron
no slave
only Christ and His Spirit in us. 

We are his family whether from 
Manchester, 
or Moscow, 
or Memphis, 
or Masterton, 
or Mumbasa,
or Mumbai,
or Mussafah,
or Macau, 
or Montreal,
or Munich. 

We move forward for our Eternal King and His Good Kingdom. 
We will not stop until our bodies lay in the dust and He takes us Home. 

We serve a God of Peace who will crush Satan under our feet.  
(Rom 16:20).  

So we will take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God 
and war on behalf of Righteousness.

There is no armor for our back sides,
so we will not shrink back 
cease, 
turn away,
or be still,

 but we will be
alert, 
sober, 
and vigilant. 

We will choose 
with joy
to 
face dangers, 
endure sufferings, 
persevere in persecutions, 
be gracious in sicknesses, 
until death closes our eyes. 

We will be characterized as 
Men
women 
boys
and girls
 with

 courageous combat faith, 
with a wartime mentality,
and transcendent joy, 

 who will do the right thing even when we are afraid

and

with the heart of our King.  

Keep your eyes open, 
hold tight to your convictions, 
give it all you've got, 
be resolute, 
and love without stopping. 
I Corinthians 16:13 The MSG


Today Afrin is Surrounded

Today as I sit at my kitchen table in a quiet corner of a small USA Midwest town, Spring is coming, the snow is melting, there is plenty of food in my home and unlimited clean drinking water from my Burkey water filter, and a new location of hell is unfolding on the other side of the world. 

The Turkish military cut off the dam upstream last week, so the possibly over million people (native Afrins and internally displaced Syrians) in the Syrian city of Afrin have resorted to drinking their well water.  By yesterday, news reports stated that the Turkish military had surrounded the entire city.  Bread and water are in short supply.

Turkey's President said that civilians were being allowed to leave, and that this military operation is to "clear terrorists" from the city. But private blogs of Afrin citizens said the refugee civilians are being fired upon when they try to leave. 

While of course terrorists could be in the city, the word "terrorist" is a convenient label given these days by any government seeking to seek, find, and destroy unwanted people. What is one country's terrorist is another country's freedom fighter. 

There is a history of war of words between the world powers on who exactly who are terrorists and who are the freedom fighters in the situation between Turkey and the Kurds, but it is easy to see from history that the Turkish government is against any Kurd, including all women and children.

Just in the last 200 years alone, Turkey has a history of ethnic cleansing against the Thracians, Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks,  Alevis, and the Kurds.

So today, despite there being no reports of any ISIS/ISIL terrorists in Afrin, and Afrin being no threat to the country of Turkey, Afrin is under attack. 

May God have mercy on the Kurdish civilians living in Afrin today.


Blog posts cited: 
https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3658-from-afrin-to-ghouta
http://iswresearch.blogspot.com/2018/01/turkeys-next-phase-in-afrin-syria.html
https://blog.prif.org/2018/01/25/turkeys-invasion-of-afrin-must-be-halted/
https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/in-afrin-turkey-seeks-ethnic-cleansing-not-terror-eradication
http://europa.blog/urgent-call-for-afrin/

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Emotionally Immature People in Risk*

    (PDF Download) 

    Emotionally immature people have a difficult time coping in the high stress and pressures of the cross-cultural risk situation.  They have a hard time sharing vulnerably and transparently with others in risk, but risk brings a lot of emotions to the surface.

    So it is important for leaders to be equipped so they can choose how to respond with compassionate understanding to those who they are shepherding in risk.  God is at work in these situations and in His sovereign plan, desires to help people grow spiritually and emotionally in risk even as non-believers are watching.

    First, we want to have a baseline, or starting point in identifying those who are emotionally immature by understanding what is emotional maturity. 

    Emotional maturity has been well studied and defined.

    It means:
    A person is capable of thinking objectively and conceptually while sustaining deep emotional connection to others. People who are emotionally mature can function independently while also having deep emotional attachments, smoothly incorporating both into their daily life. They are direct about pursuing what they want, yet do so without exploiting other people. They've differentiated from their original family relationships sufficiently to build a life of their own. They have a well-developed sense of self and identity and treasure their closest relationships. 

    Emotionally mature people are comfortable and honest about their own feelings and get along well with other people, thanks to their well-developed empathy, impulse control, and emotional intelligence. They're interested in other's people inner lives and enjoy opening up and sharing with others in an emotionally intimate way. When there's a problem, they deal with others directly to smooth out differences. 

    Emotionally mature people cope with stress in a realistic, forward-looking way, while consciously processing their thoughts and feelings. They can control their emotions when necessary, anticipate the future, adapt to reality, and use empathy and humor to ease difficult situations and strengthen bonds with others. They enjoy being objective and know themselves well enough to admit their weaknesses." 

    I discussed emotionally mature people in risk earlier. But here are the

    Traits Associated with Emotionally Immature People in Risk:

    1.  They are rigid and single-minded.
    In terms of relationships in risk, they are narrow minded to other ideas, thoughts, and feelings in risk because their mind is closed.  People who only have "one right answer" in risk, especially a spiritualized answer, are truly unhelpful in risk and shepherding people for whom the answers are not clear.

    2. They have low stress tolerance.
    "Their responses are reactive and stereotyped. Instead of assessing the situation and anticipating the future, they use coping mechanisms that deny, distort, or replace reality." The problem in risk is that living in it is stressful, mistakes may be made and often are. It's easy to blame others who are also stressed and trying to do the best they can. Risk requires one to regulate emotions and not overreact. 

    Those who consistently overreact, even at low ebbs of risk, really are not suited for the risk environment until they can grow in emotional awareness and develop appropriate internal coping mechanisms.  Unhealthy mechanisms used to numbify, narcofy, medicate, or otherwise entertain themselves out of the situation demonstrate their lack of awareness and positive soul-renewing skills.

    Questions to ask potential folks: 
    • When was the last time you overreacted to something and how did you handle it?
    • What do you do to offload stress?

    3. They are subjective, not objective.
    Risk requires both logical and emotional analysis. Only paying attention to what feels true will not lead to a balanced risk assessment and mitigation. This may increasingly be a problem with the current climate that what is true is "what I say is true" or "what feels true."

    A consistent analysis of the correct data sets, a dispassionate analysis of what is happening currently and what historical trends have been is difficult for subjective folks to engage in. These types of folks find it difficult to thrive in high risk situations.

    4. They have little respect for differences.
    They defend their view, without humbly apologizing for overstepping bounds or for acknowledging different ways and perspectives of viewing risk without judgment or presumption. We see two extremes within risk by field workers: one tends to deny the risk level while the other extreme is to demonstrate no trust and find everything a crisis.

    5. They are Egocentric.
    This means they tend to lack joy and openness, and are self-preoccupied with their anxiety, insecurity, and pursuit of validation. They react instead of respond, because they feel defensive. However, they do not see themselves as insecure or defensive, but their spouse or leadership can tell. This is magnified in the pressures of risk.

    6. They are Self-Preoccupied and Self-Involved.
    "Anxious self-preoccupation is a quality all emotionally immature people share." They constantly evaluate how others have offended them and they tend to demand respect from others.  Their self-esteem rises or falls depending on how they perceive they are viewed by others. They have fundamental core doubts about their worth because of the level of anxiety they experienced during childhood.

    7. They are Self-Referential, Not Self-Reflective.
    In their interactions with others, they think about how "they did," but don't try to gain insight or self-understanding. It's more thinking about themselves as the center of attention. In conversation, the topics always come back to them. They don't assess themselves or their impact on others. They have low social emotional intelligence.

    8. They Have Low Empathy and Are Emotionally Insensitive.
    "Impaired empathy is a central characteristic of emotionally immature people, as is avoidance of emotional sharing and intimacy. Being out of touch (and afraid) of their deeper feelings, they are astonishingly blind to how they cause others to feel."

    Empathy is beyond sympathy. Highly skilled empathetic people have imagination or mentalization, which means they can grasp other people's viewpoints and overall inner experience. They can imagine and resonate with other people's feelings. Lack of empathy suggests a lack of self-development and awareness.

    People are or remain emotionally immature because they had to develop tough defenses to survive emotional loneliness early in life. For them, lack of empathy is "normal." They have not developed into integrated natural people, and sadly don't realize they are emotionally immature because they believe their way of feeling and seeing is the reality for everyone else as well.

    "If you don't have a basic sense of who you are as a person, you can't learn to emotionally engage with other people at a deep level." (p.39).  This is especially detrimental in marriage.

    In cross-cultural risk, however, their lack of empathy impacts how they respond both to other team members and the community (judgment or condescension to under-performers or those experiencing fear), or defensiveness towards authority (team/regional and higher leadership).

    9. They are Often Inconsistent and Contradictory.
    They have inconsistent reactions to stressors, especially in risk, so it makes them difficult to understand and predict. While being highly emotionally reactive, they have a paradoxical relationship with emotions. The world of deep emotions is extremely threatening.

    10. They fear feelings. 
    "They have learned to link their most personal emotions with judgments of being bad, so they do not acknowledge those feelings, especially those related to emotional intimacy. As a result, they anxiously seek to inhibit their genuine reactions, developing defensive behaviors instead of their letting themselves experience their true feelings."(p.42).  In risk, it's hard to ascertain what they are really feeling and their overall mental health because they deny or distort their feelings, especially in front of leadership. There is a "moving bar" of what they state is needed in the risk environment to help them thrive.

    11. "They Don't Experience Mixed Emotions.
    The ability to feel mixed emotions is a sign of maturity. If people can blend contradictory emotions together, such as happiness with guilt, or anger with love, it shows that they can encompass life's emotional complexity" (p.45).

    12. Difficulties with Conceptual Thinking.
    While elsewhere I've discussed the need for balance between conceptual and situational thinking, in this case, it is unhelpful to be unable to simultaneously engage in both situational and conceptual thinking when under the pressure of risk.

    Emotionally immature people have intense emotions and anxiety that decrease their ability to think at a higher level. They are only focused on the situation and unable to reflect on the big picture. They are often at the mercy of these strong emotions and fall apart or shut down under stress. Because they are unable to engage in self-reflection, they are unable to think about their thinking, so they fall into black-or-white thinking that rejects complexity or precludes any cross-pollination of ides.

    Emotionally immature people who are otherwise intelligent can think conceptually and show insight as long as they don't feel threatening emotions in the moment. Their intellectual objectivity is limited to topics that aren't emotionally arousing to them.

    In this case, tools that help the person engage conceptually include asking them to imagine themselves back at headquarters and how would a board member view their current situation? What would the risk situation look like to a partner engaged in a normal middle class life? How would it look like if their risk situation were factually described in a news report by a non-Christian reporter? This may help them move to a more conceptual view of their situation and diminish the strong emotions impeding a conceptual analysis of the current risk situation. 

    In risk, we often have strong emotions about what we are willing to die for, or what our calling is, but also can experience deep fear and incredible rage.  How we gain and maintain perspective is impacted by our emotional maturity or immaturity.  It takes work to maintain a spiritual perspective of all we are going through and be able to self-calm and sooth our emotions appropriately.  Without conceptual thinking ability while experiencing strong emotions, we are emotionally and mentally unstable.  This results in a lack of ability to thrive-with-joy in risk.

    13. Prone to Literal Thinking.
    Emotionally immature people talk factually, and are unable to engage or explain their feelings in light of what the facts say.  It is challenging to draw them out or get them to engage with their heart. Things stay on an impersonal and intellectual level.

    Ask the person in risk to listen to their own conversation for a 24-hr period and jot down the times they mention or consider their feelings or their impact on others (empathy). The lack of times should be a "flag" to them to take down to engage with feelings and analyze them. Those who say they don't "feel" as a general life experience should be encouraged to reconsider how "in touch" with their feelings they are, as Jesus demonstrated a humanity engaged with feelings on a continual basis.

    Awareness of emotions and lack of maturity is the first step to both discernment and emotional maturity.  Those who are aware they are emotionally immature are in a great place, even in risk, because they are teachable and on the beginning journey to emotional maturity, which is probably part of why God has them on the journey and in that particular risk situation. They are to be commended for their awareness.

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    Emotional Mature People in Risk

    *Much of this article is paraphrased or quoted from Lindsay Gibson's writings and described through the lens of cross-cultural risk.