In the last two weeks, I focused on why everybody is important. Today and in the coming weeks, I will focus on the individual. There is a difference between my person and my ideas. My person connotes my essence, namely, the rational soul – the distinguishing characteristic between humans and animals, and for us Christians, the image and likeness of God. As the essence of my being, it does not change.
My ideas are part of other identifying marks such as name, skin colour, citizenship. These are accidents because they can change. Someone can forgo his citizenship, change his name or skin colour, and change his ideas.
Although “personhood” and “ideas” form part of a human being, the two concepts can be mutually exclusive. Simply put, the two concepts can be considered independent of each other. Thus, our judgement about a fact is not based on our person but on our identity which is determined by our name, citizenship, skin colour, experiences, possessions, positions we occupy, and other markers that distinguish us from others.
One of the clogs on the wheel of development and progress in our beloved Okigwe diocese is the regular substitution of one’s ideas with his person. When someone raises a point that threatens our interests, including the benefits we currently enjoy, we tend to ignore the details of the point and rather focus on the other identity markers of the speaker—his place of origin, past life, mistakes, group of friends, and economic status.
This is argumentum ad hominem of which the Nigerian government are specialists when they wish to divert attention from their failure or mistakes. Judas also preached and cast out demons like other apostles even though he was a thief (Mark 6:7-13; John 12:6). Of course, when someone’s interest is threatened, there is bound to be a pushback, both knee-jerk and nuanced. However, the mission of Christ and his Church should supersede all personal interests.
Dear friends, people may have made mistakes in the past, but it does not mean that they cannot make genuine points today. St Peter denied Jesus thrice and even swore he never knew Jesus. Saints Paul and Augustine had sinful pasts but converted along the way. Their person remained but their ideas changed for the better.
Let us leave the speaker and focus on what he said. When Peter rebuked Jesus for talking about his death, Jesus did not focus on Peter’s person but on the devil acting through him. Thus, Jesus replied: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men” (Matt 16:23). Focusing on the content of an idea will do our diocese a greater good and help us all towards making our diocese the dream home.
Of course, all is not bad news. We are already improving on dealing with the idea rather than the person. But there is more room for improvement. We move.
May God continue to help us.🙏🏾