Today in the Way of Love, we are asked to practice Learn. While the Way of Love encourages us to learn through the pages of scripture, particularly those that include the life and teachings of Jesus, I like to take a more comprehensive view of learning. Perhaps in the spirit of St. Francis, we can recognize scripture and word are deeply embedded in the people, nature, and the world around us. To open ourselves to something new, to Learn something – anything – is to open ourselves to the potential of God to do something new in us. This is particularly true when we recognize similarities across the scriptures we may read, the news articles we glean, and the new things we are exposed to.
In this regard, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts this week called Hidden Brain. This particular episode discussed the psychology of self-doubt and specifically the effects of Imposter Syndrome. Click here to listen to this episode of Hidden Brain. Imposter syndrome is a condition that tends to affect influential and successful individuals, who, despite the accolades, are still plagued by self-doubt to the point of feeling as if they are a fraud. The conversation was particularly fascinating when they pointed out many people that we consider accomplished or significant, like Albert Einstein and Maya Angelou, experienced imposter syndrome. While not fully understood, some phycologists believe that, if improperly mediated, imposter syndrome can lead to a paralyzing need for perfection. However, when mediated through healthy self-esteem, it can lead to positive virtues like humility and the ability to accept and learn from failure.
I think of this today, in terms of the infamous doubter, St. Thomas. Today is his Feast Day. While many of us may know Thomas as the one who needed proof, you don’t hear much about what he did afterward. And honestly, it’s not clear what kind of proof he received. You might say he was moved from a place of doubt and despair to a place of hope, mediated through the experience of the risen Christ. And through that experience, according to Tradition, he would go as far east as India preaching the Gospel. The church Thomas is thought to have established, the Mar Thoma Church in India, was probably one of the earliest churches beyond Jerusalem. It continues its ministry perhaps on equal footing with the Historic Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Coptic Churches.
I wonder if what Thomas felt in the wake of the Crucifixion was anything like the imposter syndrome. Did he consider himself something of a fraud? I would stop short of over psychologizing the Gospel, but I find it fascinating that the experience of the resurrected Christ, the perfection of humankind, does for him and his doubt similar to what is done to our self-doubt in the face of a healthy self-image.