50. Response to honest feedback—the example of Jesus
50. Response to honest feedback—the example of Jesus

50. Response to honest feedback—the example of Jesus

Last week, I discussed that we must consider where and how we speak to authorities when we differ. Today’s post focuses on how we should respond when people give us honest feedback.

As discussed last week, when Jesus asked his disciples who people said he was, their response downgraded him from God to a mere prophet. However, Jesus did not pick an offence. A more detailed way of responding to honest feedback is Jesus’ responses to doubts about his resurrection.  

When the disciples informed Thomas that Jesus had risen from the dead and had appeared to them, Thomas denied the resurrection arguing that he needs empirical evidence. When Jesus reappeared eight days later, he did not condemn Thomas for doubting; instead, he clarified his resurrection as Thomas had wanted. The scripture reads: “Then he (Jesus) said to Thomas: Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe” (John 20:27). 

The two disciples on their way to Emmaus were disappointed about the death of Jesus and amazed when some women in their group announced that Jesus had risen (Luke 24:19-24). After listening patiently to their honest description of how they perceived his resurrection, Jesus said to them: “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared…Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (Luke 24:25-27).

Just like in the previous example, Jesus did not condemn them for considering his resurrection as gossip. He called them “foolish”, an expression that represented his disappointment. Yet, he taught them again about his mission and ended the discussion with the breaking of bread (Luke 24:30-32). In doing so, Jesus had to walk for about seven miles. In other words, one who now travels by appearance and disappearance walks for a long distance to repeat things he had taught several times in the past to the same people.  

The response of the two disciples largely represented the views of the apostles; hence, as the two returned to Jerusalem and recounted their encounter with Jesus to the eleven apostles, Jesus appeared in their midst. They were frightened, thinking that they had seen a spirit. And Jesus said to them: “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit has no flesh and bones as you see that I have…Have you anything here to eat? They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them…Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:38-45).

From the above, one sees that Jesus consistently showed a high level of emotional intelligence in accepting that his three years of teaching his disciples about himself were not sufficient. He had earlier promised the disciples the Holy Spirit to teach them all things and help them remember all he had said (John 14:26). Jesus also accepted that his disciples could doubt his resurrection after all the teachings and miracles.

If Jesus was tolerant of contrary views and doubts of the disciples about his mission irrespective of the miracles he performed, what about us who are mere mortals.

As priests and religious, we are working for Jesus and not for ourselves or one another. If Jesus, who called us, accepted that his subordinates could differ, what about us who are simply “Jesus’ errand boys and girls”. 

Before we lay too much emphasis that the Holy Spirit is speaking through us even as we continue to abuse our authority, mistreat the flock entrusted to us, and undermine the salvation of souls (including ours), let us remember that even when Jesus (God) spoke directly, those who listened to him still differed. Peter even rebuked Jesus, albeit privately.

As I have written in the past, authority does not always equate to knowledge or rightness. As Christians, we have a moral standard in the person of Christ and the teachings of the Church. If our actions are wrong, they are wrong.

Victimising our subordinates who point out our wrong actions can never make those wrong actions right.

When people differ, let us follow in the footsteps of Jesus, our Lord and Master, in clarifying our stands rather than victimising them. The Holy Spirit speaks to us in varied ways.

Ka Chineke mezie okwu🙏🏾


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