Showing without telling is often incomplete, as is telling without showing. There is power when the two are brought together.
Show and Tell is a classic off-curriculum staple of elementary school. It is an effective teaching device. A student brings in something from home to show classmates. Then the student tells something about what is being shown. It is a simple concept.
Do you remember something you brought in for Show and Tell? I think the last time I brought something in was after going to the circus. I had a poster of Gunther Gable Williams, showing off his bulging, veiny arms, along with several of his tamed tigers. I told about going to The Ringling Bros. Circus at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis.
Bella, my first grader, has Show and Tell everyday in her class. It offers kids a chance to express their individuality or show-off, while, unbeknownst to the them, exercising the ability to communicate.
The two elements together, are a powerful leadership tool. Showing is demonstration. Others get to see the what or the how being presented. Telling is explanation. Others get to hear the why of what is being presented.
Either, by itself, reduces the impact of the communication. Imagine a kid bringing in a jelly bean and holding it in viewing of all her classmates. She presents it, saying nothing, and promptly takes her seat. Her classmates snicker and the teacher scratches his head. The “show” with no “tell” would be strange.
What if while holding the same jelly bean she told of a trip to the White House, where she was brought into the Oval Office. The president at the time was Ronald Reagan. While in the Oval Office, the president himself took a jar of jelly beans off his desk and invited her to grab a handful to take with her. Showing the jelly bean has a much different impact now, coupled with telling the source of it.
I’m sure you can think of an example where explanation without the demonstration would produce similar results. The point is, the power is with the two together.
Yesterday I was reading Psalm 25:4 where David wrote, “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me.” God is the master of Show and Tell. He doesn’t do one without the other. He provides examples of what he explains. He not only tells of truth, he guides a person into it.
The best example is the Word that became flesh. Through the Word, truth was told. But the word made flesh, also showed us the truth. Show and tell came together and dwelled among us (John 1:14).
I see this as a master class in communication by God. What if we made sure these two elements were part of whatever we were presenting. To see it and hear it, have it demonstrated and explained, would change the effectiveness of our leadership. I think we would be less frustrated with our initiatives. I think people would be less frustrated with our leadership.