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About this series
Taught by Chip's son, Ryan Ingram, Relational Intelligence gives us a clear understanding of what it takes to develop intimate, life-giving, character-shaping relationships where people share a rugged commitment to one another for the long-haul. Ryan exposes the flaws in relational thinking that result in broken, disillusioned lives. He provides alternative, biblical insight into how healthy, mature, and fun relationships can be nurtured and enjoyed.More from this series
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, we all have this deep longing and desire that we would have an intimate, life-giving, character-shaping relationship that has a rugged commitment to one another.
Life-giving. You know the friends in your life that you just go, like, “Ahhh.” So good to be with and your soul is refreshed.
That it’s character-shaping that when you’re around them, you want to be a better person and you’re growing and shaped and formed. And it’s not just a fair-weather friend. It’s not just a fair-weather marriage. It has this rugged, deep commitment to one another.
And every single person in this room has been hardwired by their Creator, by God, to have that kind and those kinds of relationships. And so, the question is: how in the world do you experience that kind of a relationship? And I would suggest what we need is not more relational information. We have lots of that.
We need more relational intelligence. You see, we live in a world that is overwhelmed with information. You can Google everything and we are overwhelmed by it, and yet, we are starved for wisdom. And that’s what this series is about is talking about wisdom or relational intelligence. Relational wisdom. What is that?
It is the skill of navigating relationships well. It is this skill, it’s an ability. And what’s great about a skill is you can actually develop it, you can grow in it, of navigating relationships well and wisely, navigating conflict well, navigating finances well, navigating discussions and communication and emotions well.
And so, here’s what it is not. Relational intelligence is not merely the acquisition of knowledge.
It’s not just getting information; you have to apply it. A skill has to developed and honed. You have to take it in and get coaching and practice and be consistent with it. And it’s the application of the right knowledge. And, we have to make sure we are getting the right knowledge to live and navigate relationships well.
In fact, Proverbs 14:12 says it this way, that, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death.” There’s a way of going about relationships that appears to be right. There’s a way that going about your dating that appears to be right, going about your friendships that appears to be right. However, in the end, it’s killing your relationships. It’s killing your marriage. It’s killing your friendships.
See, it doesn’t matter whether it feels good, whether it sounds good. The question is: is it really good for you? And so we said, inherently, with relational intelligence, there’s this challenge that it’s two things. It’s countercultural and it’s counterintuitive.
The gospel and Christianity is countercultural. It is not how everyone else is doing relationships. Now, if you look around and evaluate and you like the results that everyone else is getting, then go ahead and do what everyone else is doing. But if you look around and see the brokenness, the heartache, and the pain then chances are you might want to consider a different, countercultural way of doing relationships.
The other side of it is it’s counterintuitive, right? It means, in the gospel and the kingdom of God is leaning in and doing things that may not feel natural at first.
It’s counterintuitive to put your head in the water to swim well. And every young child fights the fight or flight response, “I’m going to drown putting my head in the water,” and we all know when our head is up, our body goes down. And you will never swim well.
And see, the same is true with relational intelligence, that we have to understand these things that we are going to be talking about, the things that we are going to be wrestling with, they are counterintuitive. It’s not going to be our natural response. And, yet, in like manner with the swimming, as we begin to put these into practice, what we will find is we are going to develop a skill of navigating the most important, meaningful relationships of our lives well.
And so, we live in a world filled with sound bites, don’t we? It’s got relational advice that unfortunately, what happens, because so much is coming at us, we tend to swallow whole never evaluating: is it true, is it good, or is it wise?
And there is a major difference, friends. Major difference between sounding good, feeling good, and being good for us. And so, what we are going to be doing is unpacking popular relational advice and then looking at the timeless principles we find in God’s Word to help us navigate our most important relationships with relational intelligence.
We are going to tackle the most pervasive relational advice in America. In fact, I believe it’s America’s relational anthem. In fact, many of you have given this advice, so don’t feel bad. We are going to talk about that.
Many of you have received this advice and you can, you don’t have to go far to find it almost anywhere and everywhere. America’s relational anthem goes like this: follow your, help me out – follow your heart. Oh, that sounds good, doesn’t it? In fact, it feels really good in the moment.
Follow your heart. Your heart will never lead you astray. We say things like this: go with your heart. Maybe you’re sitting and you have a tough decision in front of you, maybe relationally, what’s going on, someone says, “Well, well, what is your heart telling you?” Do what you believe feels right.
And we find this all over. In fact, this has been part of the fabric of our culture for a very long time. And some of you will remember this. Some of you were alive – I was not – when this song came out. 1972, Luther Ingram, great last name, came out with this hit song. “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” That’s right. If loving you is wrong.
All the way back then. See, Millennials, it’s not all new. I just had to give you that, it was like, “Hey! This is our anthem!” Like, no, it’s been around for a while. The Chainsmokers, great band, don’t suggest chain smoking, catchy song wrote “This Feeling,” and the chorus says this, “They tell me think with my head, not that thing in my chest,” and then it goes on to say that, “but if you’re the one that I want, if that’s really so wrong, then they don’t know what this feeling is like.”
Isn’t it amazing just to go almost, almost a fifty-year span and it’s identical, our songs, our anthem.
Now, I’m going to step on some toes here, I really apologize. So, just take a deep breath.
Uncross your arms, just for a second, because they are going to cross right back, I get it. Disney has been teaching this for a long time.
Tarzan says, “Trust your heart, let fate decide.” Aladdin. I love hearing the groans on this one. Aladdin says, “When did you last let your heart decide?” Okay, this is a deep track. This one is a little unfair. I – full disclosure, this wasn’t a song in the movie, it was in the closing credits. And so, this is only for the true Disney fans. Mulan. I had to give it the preface because that one is really beloved. “Your heart can tell you no lies.”
See, America’s national anthem, when it comes to relationships, the most popular advice we give is: follow your heart. Now, what if we just stopped for a moment and thought about that? Follow your heart.
In fact, underneath “follow your heart” is actually a few beliefs, two in particular I want to highlight.
The first is, in following your heart means that your emotions are the best guide for making relational decisions. Now, none of us would ever say that, but that’s inherent in: follow your heart. Because your emotions, your feelings are the very best guide for making relational decisions.
Now, let’s just stop and think about that. What if we applied that to our health and nutrition? Follow your heart! Let me tell you how that would work out for us. For me, in particular, follow your heart means I love eating out. We would eat out all the time, so, financially we would be shipwrecked because we ate out so much.
I love desserts. I have a massive sweet tooth. If I could eat it after every meal and for breakfast, it would be fantastic. And so, that would not be good. And then instead of going to the gym, I’d just watch TV. That’s kind of what following my heart would look like in nutrition and health. I don’t know about you.
Now, just imagine if we applied this idea into the financial area, think about this. Suppose you sat down across from your financial planner, you are asking him or her their strategy on investments and they said, “Well, you know, I just really follow my heart.” Would you want to invest your resources, your money with the person who doesn’t have plan, doesn’t have a strategy, but just follows the whims of their heart? No! Then why in the world would we ever do it in something so significant and way more significant than money – the relationships in our life?
Now, I’m going to dig into this just a little bit deeper. Let me ask you this: has your heart ever led you wrong? Yeah. Did you ever follow your heart and end up regretting dating him or her? Sleeping with him or her? Marrying him or her?
Have you ever followed your heart only to realize a month later, a year later, your heart has changed? For some, your biggest regrets have come from following your heart. And then we say something that is so interesting.
Here’s what we say at the end of a season like that. You say it about yourself and certainly we say it about others when we watch the pain and the heartache. “What were we thinking?”
And therein lies one of the great problems with our culture in that we have separated out our emotions and our feelings with our thinking.
And so, we live this dualistic reality. And it feeds into this second fundamental belief under “follow your heart.” Not just that your emotions are the best guide for making relational decisions, but this is actually more deeply engrained belief.
Your emotions are the truest thing about you. We say things like, “Be true to yourself.” “You do you.”
See, when we talk about our heart, in our culture, we are primarily referring to our feelings. Follow your feelings. Your feelings are the truest thing about you, and so as a result, we live in an emotionally reactionary culture.
It elevates our feelings to being the most important way to discern what is best, what is true, and what is good.
If you just follow your heart, it will never lead you wrong. And it plays out like this: do you love him or her? Doesn’t it? “Well, I just fell out of love.” “You know, I’m not in love with my mate anymore and I’m in love here, so it must be right and it’s okay. I’m just – it’s the truest thing about me.” It plays out: “Do they make you happy?” “They just don’t make me happy anymore.” “They make me happier.” “I just got to…”
It even seeps into this idea of: do they accept you for you? If I had to change some, oh my goodness. And we make major conclusions, don’t miss this, we make major conclusions about who we are, our identity, our sexuality, and our future based solely on how we feel.
In our culture, the underlying belief is everything good and true is already inside of you, you just have to tap into it. That’s actually Eastern Mysticism. You just need to know where the roots of these come from.
But let me ask you: have your emotions ever been wrong? Have they ever led you astray? You see, when the Bible talks about the heart, it speaks very poignantly and gives us a different picture than they are the best guide and the truest thing about you. In fact, the prophet Jeremiah wrote something so painfully insightful.
He says this, “The heart, is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick. Who can understand it?” The heart, it’s not like the truest thing about you or the best guide for decisions, Jeremiah the prophet would say. He would say, “No, no, no, the heart has this incredible capacity for self-deception.” And it’s sick. And so, the question is: what do we do with our heart if we don’t follow it? What do we actually do then with this heart, because we are a little confused now. And I know I just spent some time helping us think through and undermine and deconstruct our cultural philosophy. But then what do we do?
Now, one of the things our culture has gotten right is our heart is of central importance. The Bible has actually a lot to say about the heart. And when it speaks about the heart, it doesn’t just speak about your feelings or your emotions. In fact, the Hebrew thought didn’t separate the interior life of a person. The heart, according to the Bible, when you read that in Scripture, it means the center of a person’s mind, emotions, and will. It is the seat of one’s moral conscience and affection. This is the heart. It is the interior you.