Is it OK for Christians to engage in self-promotion? When we work with job-seekers on their resumes, cover letters and interview preparation, we address the issue of how they can best "showcase" their qualifications for their particular job target. Some job seekers, however, are uncomfortable with this idea, feeling that they are somehow not being humble-and risk being seen as prideful-when they talk about their abilities and accomplishments. They are not alone; many Christians struggle with what is appropriate in marketing themselves in the world.
Keys to a Christian Perspective of Self-Promotion
With the proper perspective, Christians can promote themselves effectively in their job search, performance evaluations, and business marketing while maintaining their sense of humility. The following are three keys to what we believe is a biblical view of representing oneself in the marketplace.
1) Your primary motivation is to serve others-your employer, customers, clients, students, etc.-with your work. The New Testament tells us that we are called to have an attitude of service in whatever we do, because we are ultimately serving God: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men..." (Colossians 3:23); "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men..." (Ephesians 6:7).
When you think about your career goals, do you focus on what you want to get from your job, employer or clients, or what you want to give to them? Focusing on serving others in your work is a spiritual safeguard against becoming prideful or arrogant when talking about what you are able to do as a worker.
2) You recognize that you serve others best when you give them an accurate picture of what you can do for them. You do not serve a prospective employer or client well by under-representing your skills and experience with the mistaken notion that you are being humble. If you genuinely believe that you could do well in a given position or contract, you serve the person most by helping him or her gain a full understanding of what you are able to do and how that will be of benefit. In doing this, you provide the employer or client with the information he or she requires to make a good decision about your suitability to meet their needs.
3) You acknowledge that you are God's handiwork. Your abilities, therefore, are not your own, but are valuable gifts God has given you to use in serving others. You are a created being-God's workmanship--and that all that you can do ultimately comes from your God-given design. While you may have invested time, energy and money in developing your gifts, becoming educated, and/or mastering a craft, the potential to do anything comes from God.
In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis presents a conversation between two devils in which they are discussing the "Enemy" (that is, God), their "patient" (the Christian they are tempting) and "the virtue of Humility." Lewis contrasts a false view of humility with God's perspective:
By this virtue, as by all the others, our Enemy wants to turn the man's attention away from self to Him, and to the man's neighbors....You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely a low opinion) of his own talents and character.... Fix in him mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes.... By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools....
To anticipate the Enemy's strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the, fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour's talents-or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things.
God created you; you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). It is false humility to pretend otherwise. Christian humility acknowledges the value of who God has created you to be and what He enables you to do, but always keeps in mind the Source of your gifts and abilities, and the purpose for which He has given them to you.
So, is it OK for Christians to engage in self-promotion? Yes, as long as you are truthful; focus on how you can serve the prospective employer or client; and, recognize that all you can do ultimately comes from the hand of God. Whether you are job searching or seeking to grow your business or ministry, with this perspective you can engage wholeheartedly in marketing as a means of opening doors to new opportunities in which God is calling you to use your gifts.
September 23, 2009
Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck are the authors of Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life. As National Certified Career Counselors and Life Calling Coaches, they are recognized experts in helping people identify their giftedness and find their purpose in life. If you are interested in career coaching and testing to discover work that fits your God-given design; or would like assistance with writing a powerful resume, interviewing effectively, finding job openings, or other aspects of a successful job search, you can schedule a free consultation session at www.ChristianCareerCenter.com.