What can we learn from the generations coming up after us? Dr. Rick Stevenson shares what he has learned after nearly twenty years of interviewing children and adolescents.
I was introduced to Rick Stevenson through Greg Wright, a long-time internet friend and mentor. Greg was my boss for most of the time I was writing for Hollywood Jesus – somewhere back in the Dark Ages. (It’s hard to believe I left HJ nearly four and a half years ago.) Greg had introduced me to the Millennials documentary series which was shown on the Ovation network in 2016. Screenfish was kind enough to let us share my interview with Greg and my subsequent review of the documentary.
In 2001, Rick created the 5000 Days Project, which the website tells us
is a global organization dedicated to developing emotional intelligence (EQ). We apply the StoryQ method of deep inquiry combined with video journaling technology to bring a low-cost and easy-to-implement tool into schools and communities allowing all kids to self-reflect and process in a safe environment.
As of the book’s release as an ebook in July, Rick has “conducted over 5500 in-depth interviews” with school-age children up to high school. The Project stresses the importance of Social and Emotional Intelligence, and was developed in consultation with experts in the fields, including Stevenson’s friend Dr. John Medina, author of the Brain Rules series.
Coming from a conservative Christian environment, I have long been aware of the need to get a handle on my emotions so they do not rule me. Unfortunately, I think too many in conservative circles have misunderstood the role of emotions in our lives. Too often a stoic approach is taken, ignoring one’s emotions rather than dealing with them. What often seems to happen is that the hidden emotions are still controlling the person, largely because they refuse to acknowledge the effect emotions play in shaping our lives. For example, if you are making choices based on fear, and you refuse to acknowledge you have those fears, you end up making excuses for your beliefs and actions instead of honestly examining the role this emotion has played in shaping your beliefs and actions. Xenophobia can often be excused in this way. How often have we witnessed someone who has obvious prejudices insist they are not prejudiced?
Rick’s book helps us remember what it was like to be a kid, and that remembrance can be the start of understanding who we are. It can also help us better understand those around us. According to Jesus, our mission here on earth can be summed up in two commands: Love God, and Love one another. The agape love the Bible speaks about is not emotionless. It is more than an emotion, as it seeks the best for the one loved, but the concept does include emotion. Jesus’ mission on earth was to show us what God is like. The Gospels continuously tell us that Jesus was filled with compassion for for those around Him. His actions on behalf of others was not some kind of calculated stoic response based on some mathematical calculation of what is best for the person. His actions were precipitated by an emotional response to the need He witnessed.
We have gotten emotions exactly backwards. Some of us were even taught to make the brain the engine and the heart the caboose. That is not how it works. (See the animation video near the bottom of the page on The 5000 Days Project’s home page.) Putting the emotions in a “caboose” role causes us to ignore what our emotions are trying to tell us. Only by knowing what our heart is telling us can we examine who we really are. Certainly our emotions can be lying to us, but we cannot know that unless we are listening to them and examining them. As I asserted earlier, our emotions will still lead us whether we acknowledge them or not.
If any of the above has sparked an interest in Emotional Intelligence, or causes you to want to try to understand yourself and others better, Rick’s book would be a good place to start. Broken down into 21 quickly-read and easily-digested chapters, 21 Things You Forgot About Being a Kid is a delight to read. Be sure also to read the Foreword and Introduction, as these provide background and insight into what is to follow. 21 Things is available as an ebook on Amazon.com. (If you don’t have Kindle, you can download the PC or Android versions for free.)