New Wine into Old Skins

I don’t usually go looking for quotes on change in the Gospel of Thomas and to be fair this one came by way of Stephen Jenkinson’s book Come of Age.

Reflecting on the progress of a client change program it brought together this unlikely source and the reality that initiatives often fail to realise their full potential because people struggle to commit. Not new news I know, digging deeper this resistance is often caused by how we frame the question, are we prolonging life or looking to metamorphize to a new story.

Thomas’s Gospel offers “It is impossible for a servant to serve two masters otherwise he will honour the one and treat the other contemptuously, No one drinks old wine and immediately desires to drink new wine; and they do not put new wine into old wineskins, lest they burst, and they do not put old wine into new wineskins lest it spoil it.”

In this particular case there is a bias to sustain the familiar, the nostalgia that things were always better before, to maintain the wine analogy while all vintages of Grange are held in high esteem we have to go back to 1985, according to James Halliday, for a standout year. When faced with significant and uncomfortable change against the backdrop of huge disruption, the new model of operating is, tainted with the stories of past glories, clouded by selective memories, serving one master, and treating the other contemptuously. Every set back is measured against the highest bar, the 1952 vintage.

The challenge facing this particular change in this time of disruption and uncertainty was the framing of the question.

“What story should we create next?” is new wine in old skins.

Perhaps another question that may have met less resistance might be “What story comes next, which new and ancient story presents itself with the most promise and beauty?

And how might we prepare to accept it?”