Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saying No to Self Promotion

Self promotion. In this social media saturated world, it's become second nature to market yourself. We're a nation obsessed with our personal brand. It shows up all over our lives but especially in our workplace.

After all, if you don't "toot your horn", who will? What's wrong with a little self promotion, anyway?

Here's a different perspective from Luke 14.

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this person, and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place to that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

What are the "places of honor" that you assume in your workplace? Are you spending time on self promotion instead of serving and letting your performance speak for itself? By scheming, strategizing and positioning to be recognized, are you missing out on an opportunity to see God work?

Consider this thought - it's always more satisfying to trust the host and have him promote you to a place of honor than to strive to do it yourself.


Halfmom said...

A few things I'd really like to hear your thoughts on. First, it seems that "strategizing" is necessary to get anything done in the government system. Second, annual faculty reports are all about "how great I've been in the past year". So, you are forced to think in those terms as you go through the year. Not pleasant! Lastly - how do you "raise" a graduate student or a postdoctoral fellow, particularly a non-believer, to function within a system you hate? They must know how to function in the political climate of science, whether government or academic. However, I want to teach Biblical values of trusting God, of being gracious to others, etc.


David Rupert said...

It does seem taht the world system is definitely skewed toward self promotion. it always bothers me at end of year that I have to write my own assessments. It always feels so ... dirty

Ted M. Gossard said...

I have to wonder what Daniel did. He certainly appealed to those over him for a better way. The superior's concern was that it would fit well according to the king's will. And that end was met, albeit by a godly means.

To show a better way must first of all mean we live that out well in how we conduct our affairs. But then to press that beyond. But Daniel did get in trouble. I don't know.

I hate this self-promotion stuff. I just wonder how Jesus would approach it, or have us who follow him approach it. Somehow we have to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But we must show a different way. As you are saying, ESI.

Every Square Inch said...

Halfmom-I've never worked in government so I can't offer any useful commentary. I don't think strategizing or positioning our ideas is wrong. It's just that expending primary energy jostling for position or recognition isn's at the heart of what we're called to do. From time to time, do we need to make a case for what we've done in the past year? Yes, faculty reports and annual self-evaluations can be about self promotion...or they could be about highlighting evidences of God's blessing on our work, the value of our collaborations with others, and the opportunities for us to grow.

But maybe I'm being a little unrealistic with my approach. I recently did a self evaluation and gave myself pretty harsh marks because even though I did the best I could in a difficult circumstance and arguably did it well, I realized that I didn't deliver the full result of what the company (or I) had hoped for.

Every Square Inch said...

David - I understand... I just replied to Halfmom about my own tale of self-assessment - I was my harshest critic...actually graded myself harder than my boss did

Ted - I think pointing to Daniel as an example can be helpful. He worked within the system, appealed to authorities when necessary but never lost his way in terms of what's truly important nor did he forget to honor God in a strange land

Halfmom said...

No - I think your approach is great. I just find it hard to discern between positioning my ideas and myself as it feels the same to me. It is good for me to learn to discern between the two. And, yes, I too am always am hardest on myself. I'm trying to learn to see the "annual review" process as just what you are referring too - a way to highlight what God has done in and through my life. At least now that the university appointment is very secondary to my VA appointment, I don't have to really rank myself! That is a blessing!

LivewithFlair said...

I think false humility is just as dangerous. I have no problem self-promoting. I think Christians need to shine forth broadly and without reservation. God is doing amazing things in us--why hold back? Just because we put forth a brand and a product and maximize marketing doesn't make us ungodly. I say "yes" to self-promotion because of what God has done in me. If I've done well, it's to His glory. Why hide it? Thank you so much for bringing this discussion to the HCB. I've been working hard to market and promote Live with Flair because I think it's good for people.

Every Square Inch said...

LivewithFlair -

I think you're making an insightful point. False humility is no humility at all and is dangerous because it deceives us in the process.

Yet,I wonder if the answer is self promotion? For instance, is marketing mostly about self promotion or about serving the consumer? Just a different way of looking at what might be the same activity - being proud and advertising a product you've developed could be about serving the buying community and showcasing the gifts of God.

Similarly when we highlight our effectiveness at work, we are serving our boss in identifying effective performance in the organization.

David said...

I would say it all comes back to the motivation. If pride and recognition are motivating your actions then you need to "check" yourself.

On the other hand, if your heart is for servanthood, then self promotion is fine, depending what you do. So, for example, I take no issue with someone who is a shameless self promoter in a networking fashion that helps them connect genuinely with people for the purpose of helping them - I do it all the time. I am not motivated by pride but by a heartbeat to serve.

An excellent reminder though - thanks for the post!

Sam Van Eman said...

I came across a book the other day that made what is usually an abundance of self-promotion into full-blown indulgence. He even had his wife write the preface, which amounted to pages of husband-worship with sentences interjected with his accomplishments and degrees. I dropped the book where I had found it.

Yet, I'm with LivewithFlair when self-promotion is done with humility. The challenge is finding tasteful ways to do it.

Anne Lang Bundy said...

Yes, I still struggle with this myself.


If my calling is to promote something or someone else, I want to believe that there's room for promotion as long as it's deflected to the object of my work. I ask God to enable me to live up to the mantra, "What others think of me is less important than what they think of Jesus Christ because of me."

Every Square Inch said...

David - yes, it IS about the motivation of our hearts.

Sam - I suspect you've given this topic much thought given your interest in advertising. Your and LiveFlair's point about humility is spot on. Humble advertising - it feels such an oxymoron, though :-)

Anne - I really like the quote - "what others think of me... " Thanks for sharing - I will keep that in mind as I go into this week.