Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
— John 20:24-25
This morning, before writing, I read a short post written by my friend Francis, where he describes his radical teaching work, and the mixed responses he receives, ranging from bewilderment and awe to annoyance and skepticism.1 It beautifully dovetails with my thoughts about the all-too-common "Doubting Thomas" response in the corporate world to any new idea that interrupts the status quo. Francis and I both work in the field of organisational transformation, or change management as it was once called. We offer new ideas, different ways of showing up, new behaviours to counter the bad habits and sicknesses an organisation has accumulated over decades of faulty thinking. These new ways often have names, like Agile, Lean, Scrum—or in this case, Exformation. Executive types commonly like the names, and want to use them. Less common is a desire to change the behaviour. This is like a man suffering a serious heart problem changing his suit rather than his diet, or spending time at the barber each day rather than at the gym. But this is altogether too big a topic to cover in a daily post, and really quite beyond the scope of today's selected passage. In making the connection it is just the proverbial dove's tail that interests me. The connection is the "yes, but" response.
"I might believe..." says Thomas, "but show me the evidence". This response is one I commonly hear in the corporate world, taking the form of..."who else is doing it?" or "how do I know it will work?" or "it's too vague" or "too simple, must be wrong", and so on. Common to all these responses is the implicit (sometimes explicit) request, "prove it!" There is nothing wrong with doubt of course, indeed quite the opposite. A healthy skepticism is almost a requirement when working on the cutting edge of innovation. The part that is not oaky is the desire to have someone else prove it to you. If we doubt we must rather seek to understand better ourselves, and perhaps most importantly summon our intuition—a resource we seem to be less and less in touch with in the era of Siri, Alexa and the now old-fashioned 'search' feature on a browser.
When asked for evidence, I balk. Not because their isn't any previous experience, and not even because every context is different. I balk because they are not really seeking evidence to support the idea, but seeking evidence that will prove it won't work in their particular case. The question usually tells me the organisation is not ready for change. At this point the corporate story diverges from the gospel story. Thomas is ultimately convinced when he has the ultimate evidence: Jesus himself.
Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.2
But having the evidence only forces Thomas to be a believer, it does not make him one of the blessed. It is the blessed who are able to carry the message, not the reluctant believer, burdened with the evidence but with no intuition to lighten the load.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.3
When we are back in touch with our atrophied intuition we may be able to hear new ideas and just know if they are ideas worth pursuing. We won't need experts to tell us, nor promoters and marketeers to convince us and sell us tools, systems and consultancy services to carry the load and do our thinking for us. The evidence we so often seek is usually contained in our hearts. We just need to learn how to look.4
1 Responses to Exformation by Francis Laleman, 25/10/2021
2 John 20:27-28
3 John 20:29
4 A different, and very poignant understanding of this story can be found in Wounds of Christ by Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, 2016