28. Emotional intelligence and spiritual depression
28. Emotional intelligence and spiritual depression

28. Emotional intelligence and spiritual depression

“We cannot be good fathers and spiritual directors to those we denigrate”.

Someone wrote me on the above quote I made two weeks ago arguing that emotional intelligence is essential to good leadership in the Church, and necessary to avoid spiritual depression among Church members and leaders. How?

Emotional intelligence is “the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathise with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict”[1].

Jesus was a master of emotional intelligence, knowing when to react and when to be silent; when to advise and when to reprimand; when to teach in simple terms and when to speak in parables; when to empathise and when to sympathise. Though he was God, he always followed due process, regularly updated his disciples and the people when necessary, and responded to various questions, including those meant to entrap him. Yes, Jesus valued them to give a response.

Therefore, to be a good minister, one needs an above-average level of emotional intelligence. This is leadership with character, and it is indispensable because of the uniqueness of Church leadership, namely, the fundamental equality among all Christ’s faithful stemming from baptism (Lumen Gentium, 32), the universal call to holiness (Lumen Gentium, 41), the servant nature of leadership wherein the sheep determines the action of the shepherd (Matthew 20:26-27). Pope Francis, on various occasions, admonished priests to be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep”[2].

As the laity has the right to certain information that directly concerns them, the application of emotional intelligence entails that if we cancel a scheduled mass, we must inform them earlier so that they can readjust. It is their right to know, not a privilege. The same goes for other parish or diocesan programs. Not doing these abruptly alters people’s plans and programs with its attendant emotional, financial, and spiritual implications. An above-average emotional intelligence also entails apologising when we begin mass later than the stipulated time or when we cannot deliver an expected service promptly. Not doing so is arrogance, a sign of disrespect and disregard.

These, amongst other forms of abuse of authority and privilege, lead to spiritual depression. The depression is spiritual because it stems from a religion-based activity, is caused by religious personnel, and ultimately affects one’s relationship with God, who Church leaders represent.

Yes, people left Jesus because of his “hard teaching” (John 6:60-66), but no one left Jesus because of disregard; not even the Scribes and Pharisees.

Church leaders also suffer spiritual depression induced by other Church leaders. We cause this when, instead of working as a team as Christ willed and commanded, we disrespect ecclesiastical authorities, disregard our confreres, abuse our subordinates, or deprive them of their rights, and sabotage efforts geared towards the holistic salvation of souls.

Following due process, regular communication and updates eliminate these situations. There is no gainsaying that productivity is very low when people are not valued where they work, by those they work for, and by their confreres.

Indeed, the lack of self-worth induced by disregard by ecclesiastical authority snuffs out the burning zeal for our father’s house.

Jesus gives us the best example of emotional intelligence between Church leaders when he sent John the Baptist a robust response. The scripture reads,

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see; The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me” (Matthew 11:2-6).

Ka Chineke mezie okwu 🙏🏾


[1] https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/emotional-intelligence-eq.htm

[2] https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2021-06/pope-francis-priests-students-church-louis-french.html; https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130328_messa-crismale.html


  1. Nikki

    This post is absolutely rich! There’s so much I can comment upon, but I’d like to point out how I love your treatment of the behavior of Christ. You shed light on the fact that the way he “moved” was in fact emotional intelligence at work. He knew what was in the hearts of men and governed himself accordingly.

    Another important point you addressed was the humanity of church leadership. No matter the title, we are all human and subject to the same frailties. Even Apostle Paul had a thorn in his flesh. Even Christ was in distress about his fate on the cross to the point when he prayed his sweat was like drops of blood. If those who walked in the fullness of God’s glory had to endure pain and suffering, we are not exempt.

  2. Pingback: 32. Co-responsibility of the Laity – The Catholic Church in the contemporary society

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