God on Monday
‘For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who
humble themselves will be exalted’
Our workplaces can sometimes feel like a vanity parade. Colleagues try to ensure their achievements are recognised. This self-promotion can take many forms. There is the ulterior motive emailer (‘I just want to remind you I won’t be in the office tomorrow – that’s the day I’m interviewing a senior business leader’), the social media gloater (‘in this photo, I’m addressing a major international conference’), or the outright self-publicist (‘my new book is selling fast and is getting great reviews’).
Partly because of the rivalry and sense of inadequacy it provokes (including on the part of the self-promotor), a culture of self-promotion is exhausting. Humility is perceived as weakness, and people increasingly experience ‘imposter syndrome’ – the constant anxiety that they will be found out as a fraud because they feel intimidated by the achievements of others. Sufferers are encouraged to ‘fake it until you make it’, quashing their feelings of self-doubt, and joining in the vanity parade.
But true humility is not thinking less of yourself (as is often the case with imposter syndrome). It is thinking of yourself less. After Jesus says the words above, he instructs his followers to look beyond themselves to those who are considered inadequate and unimportant. That includes, in our times, people who have come to think they are inadequate and unimportant because of the self-promotion culture. We are to go out of our way to affirm them and be hospitable to them.
This week we will likely encounter someone who makes us feel intimidated, or someone who feels intimidated by us. Rather than dwelling on our inadequacies, or on those of others, use that time to consider what one thing you can do to exalt those who are held down by the self-promotors they work with. Find inspiration in the way Jesus responded to the marginalised.
God of love, we thank you that all are welcome to feast at your table and that you raise up the rejected. Give us your eyes to see those excluded from your table. Help us to grow in humility and to shun the pressure to promote ourselves. Amen.
, Clergy Leader at Holy Trinity Boar Lane, Leeds. Honorary Lecturer in Divinity, University of St Andrews
God on Monday is produced in partnership with the Church of England. The reflections are based on the scriptural readings designated for the coming Sunday in the Church's lectionary. You can sign up to Faith in Business here to receive each God on Monday instalment.
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