A Book List to Help You with Emotional Maturity

by | Nov 17, 2020 | Uncategorized | 14 comments

12 Books that Help Emotional Growth

It’s time for a resource list of books to help you grow more emotionally mature!

We’re in the middle of our emotional maturity series, and yesterday I was talking about 6 ways to help you grow more emotionally mature and more responsible. I promised that today I’d give you a list of books that I highly recommend that have helped me, and that I hope can help you, too.

I know that we’ve got so many resources other than just books, and so I’ll give some suggestions on how to identify healthy resources online as well.

But let’s jump in!

Affiliate links below to Amazon.

Books that help you understand emotions

I’m going to list a few books below that help us learn what healthy looks like. I’ve mentioned so many books in the past that help us cope when things aren’t healthy, and if you know you’re there, then going deeper is likely a good idea.

But I think getting a picture of what a healthy emotional life looks like first makes it easier to handle it when things aren’t healthy. So here are some books that can help you identify health!

 

Wisdom of Your Heart

The Wisdom of Your Heart

Emotions are not bad. Emotions are meant to tell us something.

Learn how to value your emotions and honor your emotions–because God is an emotional God!

 

Marc is going to join us on our podcast this Thursday, too, talking about what emotions can teach us. It’s amazing how we tend to think that certain emotions are “good” and certain ones are “bad”, and we’re not supposed to have the bad ones–or it’s a sin to have the bad ones. Let’s get a more biblical approach to emotions, which will show us better how to handle them, too!

Wisdom of Your Heart

Try Softer

Don’t try harder.

Try softer. What if our approach to how to handle our to-do list, our stress, our daily life is all backwards? Lean into what rest and grace really mean.

Wisdom of Your Heart

Sacred Pathways

Sometimes it’s not only our emotions we have a hard time accepting or feeling–it’s also God.

And that could be because the way that you naturally relate to God and yearn to experience God is different from the way your church does it, or you’ve been told is the “right” way.

Here are 9 spiritual pathways that we may have as we experience God. Our family found this book so helpful as we all tried to identify our own–and it helped me understand why pen-and-highlighter-with-a-journal devotion times don’t do much for me.

Wisdom of Your Heart

Daring Greatly

How daring to be vulnerable is the key to emotional growth–and the key to purposeful living.

Brene Brown made a huge splash with her videos on how vulnerability is linked to courage, and in this book she explains it well.

Full disclosure: this is the one book on this list I haven’t read, but so many of you recommended it on Facebook yesterday that I couldn’t leave it out!

Books that help you process your past or understand trauma

Sometimes the issue isn’t just understanding emotions; it’s overcoming past hurts that are holding you back. How do you grow despite trauma? How do you help trauma not take over your life anymore? Here are just a few suggestions:

 

The Body Keeps the Score

The Body Keeps the Score

This is THE book on post-traumatic stress disorder, and how to process trauma that has taken root in your body and is now impacting your life.

Truly a groundbreaking book, this helps you understand why you may do the things you do, and what may hold you back, and then points to some treatments that can help you move forward.

I know The Body Keeps the Score can be a controversial book right now because its author has, tragically and ironically, been implicated in multiple abuse situations. It is still, however, a great book. If there are others that are just as comprehensive and good that you would recommend, let me know in the comments so that I have a different one to use instead of this one!

 

The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled

The classic that I read over thirty years ago, it’s still so insightful on how growth happens.

Scott Peck wrote this when he was on a spiritual journey. It’s not a Christian book, but you can see, in later books like People of the Lie, that he had come to see God in a personal and real way.

I found this book so illuminating–one of the concepts Peck is trying to describe is grace. It’s very interesting. 

Books that help you navigate healthy relationships and boundaries

Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend

Boundaries

I LOVE the Boundaries books. This is the one that started them all–showing how boundaries are biblical, while letting others walk all over you is not. This shows you how it’s not selfish to say, “I will do this but not that.” It’s actually affirming of God’s calling on your life!

For people who tend to be people pleasers, or who have trouble being assertive, this book can help you understand what healthy relationships look like.

Emotionally Healthy Woman

9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage

This one’s MY book!

Want to know what a healthy marriage should look like? Want to throw away many of the things that we’ve been taught that can actually keep us stuck?

Learn how to walk together towards God’s intention for your marriage, in God’s power for your marriage. Because sometimes the things we erroneously THINK about marriage can hold us back!

Emotionally Healthy Woman

The Emotionally Healthy Woman

The subtitle of this says it all: eight things you need to quit to reclaim your life.

If you feel like you are overfunctioning in far too many areas of your life, letting yourself get burned out, then you need to learn how to act so that those who are underfunctioning can be encouraged to look more like Christ!

A great book on what healthy responsibility looks like.

Books that help you get more disciplined and develop life skills

Emotionally Healthy Woman

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

It’s not an exaggeration to say that this book changed the direction of my life. I don’t think I’d be writing today had I not read this when my girls were babies.

What this helped me understand was how to be purposeful and intentional with my life, and how things weren’t magically going to happen unless I put things in place to make them happen. Just an amazing book.

Emotionally Healthy Woman

Your God is Too Safe

Do you struggle with getting excited about your devotions? Do you struggle with wondering if you really love God?

This is an awesome book that helps you see God in a different way–and helps you see spiritual disciplines in a new, exciting way.

This book helped get me out of a several-year-long drought with God, and helped me reinvigorate my disciplines with Jesus.

Emotionally Healthy Woman

Atomic Habits

Want to exercise more? Use social media less? Do housework in a more organized way? Be more productive at work?

We all have these goals of little things we want to change in our lives, but how do we make that change actually happen?

I read this book two years ago, and it’s been amazing to help me figure out why I couldn’t break stupid habits, and how to actually accomplish some of the small changes that bring big results!

How to Identify Good Resources to Help You Grow Emotionally

Obviously this is only a tiny list of the books that I have found most helpful in my own life. I would also add a book on money management, since that’s such an important thing to learn. And, of course, many of these things can be learned through podcasts, blogs, or YouTube channels as well. 

Rebecca has learned so much about cleaning routines and baby routines through YouTube, and Katie loves listening to money management channels online!

The key is to always be learning.

But I’m also very aware that many resources, even in the church, are distinctly unhelpful. 

 

My litmus test to see if a resource is healthy:

How does that resource treat the idea of boundaries?

If a resource encourages you to have boundaries, then the resource is likely emotionally healthy. If the resource tells you to continually deny yourself, or just to pray harder, then the resource is likely not healthy.

Please don’t misunderstand me: It’s not that I’m against prayer. I’m all for it! But so often resources use “prayer” as an excuse to not exercise good judgment or boundaries. Just pray harder and let the person keep treating  you badly, abusing you, or walking all over you. Just pray harder and good things will happen to you–instead of acting responsibly. 

Prayer should not be an excuse to avoid doing the hard things that God wants us to do!

God made us with limits, with boundaries, and when those are trespassed, we will become emotionally unhealthy. When we understand God’s purpose for our life, and that we can’t accomplish His purpose if we are allowing others to run roughshod over us, or if we’re avoiding responsibility, then we’ll be able to grow.

So as you’re seeking out resources online, ask yourself: Does this help me make good choices? Does this help me become more responsible? Does this give me more margins so that I can concentrate on what God wants for my life? Does this encourage me to help other people around me look more like Jesus, or does this encourage me to enable sin? 

That’s how I find good resources to help me grow.

I’d love to hear what you find helpful, too. Any podcasts that have helped you grow? Books that have helped you grow? YouTube channels you love? Leave them in the comments!

12 Books that Help Emotional Growth

What would you add? Do you have a litmus test? A favourite book that has changed your life? A favourite podcast? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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14 Comments

  1. AspenP

    Great list Sheila! Several new -to me- books I’m adding to my reading list.
    Boundaries and Emotionally Healthy Woman (or her husband’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality) are in my top recommended books for emotional health and spiritual growth!
    Not on your list, but I have also loved Mark DeJesus’s book Exposing the Rejection Mindset. It’s not weirdly churchy, but very practical about how we are influenced in our daily interactions by being afraid of being rejected unless we have dealt with and processed our responses to rejection head on.
    Carlos Whittaker’s Kill the Spider was also a good and quick read especially in regards to a crisis in faith and/or compartmentalizing your faith from how you treat others close to you/family.

    Reply
  2. AspenP

    Free of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller was also a great book for me that helped me move out of people pleasing. Great read & our women’s ministry ladies loved it too.

    Reply
  3. Becky

    Oh, I forgot about Sacred Pathways! I heard about it years ago and had wanted to read it, but then life happened and it slipped my mind. Great list!
    I’ve only read two of these, yours and Atomic Habits. I found the latter to be extremely helpful for me, since I have a tendency towards an all or nothing mindset. But it’s been good to learn that even small changes can add up into great things, and I think it has been useful in helping me make manageable steps towards improving my physical health over the last several months, and establishing a more consistent quiet time with God. I hadn’t thought of it in terms of emotional health, but can see how it could apply there as well.

    Reply
  4. Phil

    Let me open by saying I am not trying to change the subject on emotional growth/maturity. I am about to start chapter 4 of The Wisdom of the Heart. So I am looking forward to hearing what Marc has to say on Thursday. I have been gathering my thoughts on this topic. That being said, in the post the topic of prayer came up and how it can be used as an avoidance or deflection for actually taking on a problem straight ahead. So where I am going with this is what is a healthy or maybe even an alternative method that we can use instead saying just pray more? Recently in my study work I have been confronted with an idea that Community is the most important factor in your relationship with God. Now I would have said the answer is prayer prior to this being put in front of me. In addition, this has been a new concept for me for about 2 months. It has slowly taken over in my mind as a belief. Why? In the past 2 months I have dealt with men that are facing divorce, facing being fired from their job for viewing porn at work and even a suicidal thought admission. What is the first thing I tell them? Surround yourself with people. I do often say I will pray for you and I do often tell them to say a prayer for your situation. However, think of this: One primary instinct these men often did first was to reach out to people – a form of community. They didnt know what to do. God speaks through people. I dont know about you – but when I pray it is not too often that God in his own voice says: Here is the answer – what God does is he uses situations of people places and things – peoples voices to answer your prayer. Thats how the relationship works. Love thy neighbor. 2nd most important commandment in the bible. That being said you need to be able to speak to people and then LISTEN. I do have some further thoughts I will share at some point on emotional maturity but I can tell you this. What I am talking about here is men with very little emotional maturity. They are learning emotional maturity by reaching out and listening to someone who can offer experience strength and hope instead of following how they FEEL. The goal is for them to grow so that they can not only hear Gods word but to give Gods word. You can not do that if you are emotionally immature.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      AMEN, Phil! I totally agree. I think the whole point of emotional maturity is really about relational maturity. We are made to function in community; and so true community is one of the most healing things, and the thing that will embolden us towards real growth. That’s why one of the things I talked about yesterday was getting out of toxic community if you want to grow, and trying to find healthy community. I completely agree.
      And I’m so glad you’re able to help these men, Phil. That’s a real calling. Bless you as you muddle through, for I’m sure it’s a lot of one step forward, two steps back!

      Reply
  5. Sandra M.

    Yes! You are so right, Sheila – emotional maturity is really about relational maturity. It has little to do with actual age, although there are maturity needs and tasks (things that we need to receive and things we need to learn/do along the way as we grow into maturity) that will ideally take place at certain developmental stages, if we are raised by loving and capable parents or caregivers. For so many of us (myself included), very negative early life events and/or the lack of many vital positives mean that our emotional maturity can be prevented from developing at the proper time. I have had to seek healing and growth as an adult to move forward, and I praise God that this has been possible with His help and the caring help of other supportive people who are further along in their own journey.
    I wanted to let you know about a less-widely-known book that has been life-changing when it comes to emotional maturity: “Living From The Heart Jesus Gave You: A Life Model Book” by a team of authors including Jim Wilder. It has helped me so, so much in the past few years, more than any other therapy or book has ever done (and I’m in my mid-50s and have been pursuing healing since my teens). I know many others that have been helped by this approach as well. It’s very practical and also very affirming and compassionate. If Life Model classes are available to go through the materials as a group, that’s even better (I have been blessed to find these in my area). I also highly recommend other follow-on materials from The Life Model group and ThriveToday – there is a lot of info right on their websites, and they have books, class materials, online things. If you are interested, you can find a lot more info at lifemodel.org , thrivetoday.org, http://www.thrivingrecovery.org/Home/. Right now I am part of a local small group of women going through the book “Joy Starts Here”
    There is overlap between these resources/groups, and they are all helpful resources to explore for anyone seeking to increase in emotional maturity. Here is a helpful FAQ for anyone who wants to know more about where to start with these resources: https://www.thrivingrecovery.org/gallery/connexus%20faq.pdf I cannot say enough about how truly life-changing these resources can be. I’m not affiliated with them in any way, simply speaking from personal experience (of mine and also of friends).
    It’s been wonderful to see you exploring this topic because it’s so vital for developing and maintaining healthy relationships. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  6. Lyndall Cave

    For anyone who lives with ADHD, I highly highly highly recommend the YouTube channel “How to ADHD”.
    I know a lot of advice in regular books about how to improve habits and emotional maturity can be daunting or overwhelming for those of us with neurodiverse brains. I love this channel because Jessica has ADHD herself and gives tips that actually work for our brains that have a harder time focusing, planning and organizing.
    I can also recommend Dr. Edward Hallowell’s books on ADHD.

    Reply
  7. Elsie

    Boundaries literally changed my life. I’m still a recovering people pleaser but reading that book was the first time I realized that it was okay for me to have needs and opinions of my own.
    Atomic habits also helped me a lot to learn how to reach goals in manageable ways.
    Looking forward to checking out some of these other resources!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I thought it was a great book, too! And all the books in the Boundaries series, and others by Cloud (like Changes that Heal) are also excllent.
      The bit at the beginning of Atomic Habits about improving everything by 1% has always stuck with me, especially for business.

      Reply
  8. Heather

    I LOVED Boundaries! And Atomic Habits is on my list to read! Do you have any resources for developing patience? My husband is struggling in this area (specifically with our kids) and we don’t know where to start!

    Reply
  9. Em

    Bookmarking this! Sacred Pathways is one of my favorites.

    Reply
  10. Lydia purple

    Heather, I realize this is a late comment… Patience has a lot do with compassion, humility and realizing that every person is on a journey. If one looks at their kids only through the lense of expectations of how they should behave or how things should be done it is almost guaranteed that they‘ll end up impatient. but if you look at your children knowing that they are on a journey growing in ability and towards maturity (just like us) and acknowledging that even imperfect executions of tasks like getting dressed are steps towards being better at them will allow for more patience to emerge. Also wrong behavior and failure are just opportunities to learn and clues for you what you should teach. This is where a positive discipline mindset helps – instead of just punishing every wrong doing use the mistake as a learning opportunity. Teach actively the right way you want your kid to behave, demonstrate and practice it.
    There is no magic method to be patient (and I know of no resource that teaches patience) but I think it has much to do with your mindset as to how you perceive kids and your role as a parent. Maybe you should reflect with your husband on that.

    Reply
  11. lydia purple

    I would add “Nonviolent Communication” by Marshall B. Rosenberg. It’s all about communicating needs and emotions to get to the core of conflicts – similar to what you write in 9 ways to change your marriage. If I recall correctly it even has lists of emotions and needs to help one get in touch and communicate what’s really going on inside. I should read it again…

    Reply
  12. Becky Miller

    The best book on understanding emotions is “How Emotions Are Made” by Lisa Feldman Barrett. She is a neuroscientist who explains what emotions are, how our brain manufactures them, and how our minds construct our emotions from our sensations and experiences. It’s pretty easy to read for being such an in-depth research book.

    Reply

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