August 7, 2023
by Ken Shuman, Executive Director, Faithwalking
Karios partner Faithwalking talks about the importance of emotional maturity and the difference between just knowing about it and actually growing in it.
What do I wish I had known when I was first starting in ministry?
After more than forty-four years of ministry, there is one thing that stands out above all the others. I wish someone had told me about the importance of emotional maturity early in my adult life. I wish someone had helped me to see that I wasn’t very emotionally mature. I wish there had been a ministry available where I could have gotten help. Unfortunately, I didn’t know I needed help and I wouldn’t have known where to go for help even if I had known I needed it. I was probably even resistant to getting help.
I had a genuine call to ministry, but I was driven to succeed by my need to prove my worth. I was filled with anxiety and wasn’t aware of it. I was reactive far more often than I wanted to be. I had a deep need to please other people and to keep them happy. I was not very self-regulated, and I was not very self-defined. Without knowing it, I had come out of my family of origin at a place of low emotional maturity.
During the evaluations and testing in preparation for doctoral work, one of the counselors told me that I was overly responsible for other people. I had no clue what that meant, and he had no idea how to help me. I just shrugged it off and moved on. Eventually, at 42 years of age, I experienced severe burnout. I was exhausted, disillusioned, and afraid. I had no idea what caused the burnout, and I had no idea what to do about it.
This is what I have learned since then. It doesn’t matter how much content you know if you are not growing in emotional maturity. You can know everything there is to know about ministry and theology but if you are not maturing emotionally, you will probably not last. In addition, knowing about emotional maturity is not the same as being emotionally mature. You can’t just study emotional maturity; you must grow into emotional maturity. Information alone does not lead to transformation. Growing in emotional maturity is a process that takes time. There is no magic fairy dust, and there is no quick fix.
Your character matters greatly, but you will forget your character in a heartbeat when you get triggered by someone and simply react impulsively. Your autopilot way of protecting yourself regularly overpowers reason when you get anxious. Learning to manage one’s reactivity is a key to emotional maturity.
Being skilled in your craft is essential, but having clear boundaries, engaging in self-care, and feeding your own soul are just as essential. There is a big difference between being gifted/talented and being emotionally mature.
Growing in emotional maturity is a requirement to finishing well. I’m convinced that if a person isn’t growing in his/her emotional maturity, they will not align their lives with the teachings of Jesus consistently. Growing in emotional maturity is an essential ingredient to leadership. It is an essential ingredient to having extraordinary relationships. It is a requirement if we want to live a fully alive life. Growing in emotional maturity is essential to our long-term success and health. A lack of emotional maturity will sabotage gifted and talented people every time.
I have good news! What I wish I had years ago is available to you now. I lead a ministry called Faithwalking, which is a process of spiritual formation where people are equipped with tools to gain freedom from wounds of their past, grow in emotional maturity, and live lives of purpose on mission with God.
Because Faithwalking is a collaborating partner of Kairos University, Kairos students who complete all six Faithwalking Foundations modules will receive a Certificate of Completion in Emotional Maturity Formation. A first-of-its-kind certificate as far as we know! You can find out more about this process at www.faithwalking.com.