By Lara Pickford-Gordon
Feedback can be a way of “sharpening” each other and helping someone grow to become the best version of themselves. In this regard, Church needs to be better at giving and receiving feedback “if we are going to be a community that is growing to the Kingdom of God”, said Archbishop Jason Gordon.
“We don’t like feedback; we don’t do it well and oftentimes when we do it, we cause more muddle than the muddle that was there in the first place,” he delivering the homily last Sunday during televised Mass on Trinity TV. His discourse focused on the day’s Gospel of Matthew 18:15-20.
He recalled that St Pope John XXIII as a senior seminarian sought the views of a younger seminarian on how he could improve to be a better seminarian, a much better disciple and man of God.
Referring to a verse from proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend”, he commented, “Only when you have somebody as hard as you are—iron that is willing to rub against you— then sharpness happens. That sharpness is what is required if we are going to live in the Kingdom of God”.
Archbishop Gordon said if people avoid conflict, all forms of challenge, then the society becomes soft, spiritually decaying and dying because there is no sharpness and no sharpening for the sake of God. He illustrated with someone confronting a friend about their actions and being thanked for being a true friend. Archbishop Gordon however pointed out that the usual first response was to go into “defensive mode” and the next was to attack the person.
He asked rhetorically, “Why is it so difficult for us to take feedback?”. He said when people have their eyes turned inward and they make themselves the centre of the universe, then it is difficult to see. Archbishop Gordon continued, “either because of pride…or because of lack of judgement or …lack of sensitivity to other people.” If there was sensitivity then there would be awareness of the hurt caused to the other person. Archbishop Gordon said pride was a gateway to all sins because it prevents people from easily hearing the feedback from God, conscience and others. Contrasting this is humility when there is openness, sensitivity and discerning right judgement.
Archbishop Gordon noted the text omitted that the brother who did something wrong did not come forward to apologise. He explained, “The person should have taken responsibility for themselves to come to say ‘I am sorry’. That is the first responsibility we have but If the person does not take reasonability then what we do [is] we go and have it out between our two selves.”
Before this happens though, people would complain to many others before speaking directly to the person involved. He pointed to the trend of persons airing their disagreements using social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: “everybody gets to know before the person hears from you.” Archbishop said doing this was an “even greater sin” because at the heart of the Church is reconciliation. He added, “You can’t reconcile with somebody if you have their name all over town.”
Another challenge was how people gave feedback and their intentions. Archbishop Gordon said, “Feedback is clear; it is very specific.” Some persons in a moment bring up a litany of all the things done in the past and expect the person to be receptive. It is not about revenge and judgement. He said, “If the process of feedback is dehumanising, it is not in service of Christ.”
Archbishop Gordon reiterated in different ways during his homily, “It is about winning your brother and sister back to you and back to Christ so they have a sense of their worth and their joy and who they are in Christ”.