I wish to elaborate in this blog on a comment made by a friend of mine some months back. He very frankly said to me, "Greg, when you talk, you speak your resume!" After figuratively nursing my offended self by sucking my thumb in the corner for a bit, I took that to heart and started evaluating the statement. Have you ever taken a pause and evaluated if you do the same thing while talking to others? I found that this comes into play not just professionally, but spiritually.
I used to start off my conversations when talking to people in the community with, "I sat on 17 boards in this community, and chaired most of those!" While that is not an incorrect statement, to what purpose did it serve? I was not interviewing for an 18th board position when I shared that statement. I was merely making sure that everybody knew my status in the community, and that I was the unofficial mayor of the town. Not really, but it was a prideful way of getting across to my peers that I have been around the block. What purpose did this serve? Absolutely none! It was a way for me to elevate myself above the person that I was conversing with. That is the antithesis of humble and contrite in the eyes of God.
Moving on to the other main realm of speaking my resume. I found myself constantly surrounded by those in church and in church leadership. I also found myself stating my pedigree while talking with other Christians by starting the conversation off with, "I have been in Men's Ministry since 1994, and have been to the foreign mission field on 6 separate occasions!" Again, not an incorrect statement, but the only purpose it served was to make sure everybody knew that ministry was not new to me, and that I have been in the game for a long time.
In the professional world as a manager, I found myself slipping a phrase into my conversation on manager calls. It went something like this, "Man you should see how far we have come in the 11 years that I have worked here. I know most of you have not been around the company that long." Again, this served one purpose, and that was to elevate myself in seniority amongst my co-workers. It was a method of showing that I was the Alpha Male in the room, and that everybody was inferior to me. You want to know the sad part, I never even realized I was doing any of this, until somebody made the comment to me. It stung for a bit, but I am so glad that they brought it to my attention.
What makes us feel like we need to wear our accolades and accomplishments on our shirt sleeve for all to see? Why do we feel the necessity to elevate ourselves above others? Is there a need in society to not feel subservient? All great questions I intend to answer.
To the first question, "What makes us feel like we need to wear our accolades and accomplishments on our shirt sleeve for all to see?" I think this is best answered by the fact that we do not want to feel like we aren't keeping up with the Joneses. We live in a society of comparison and contrast. We compare our cars, boats, guns, houses, and pretty much every other material possession. There are those out there that like to compare their salaries, bonuses, and balances in their 401(k)'s. We want to appear wealthier and better off than we actually might be on paper. There is a desire to feel wanted, and somehow, we feel that our accolades and accomplishments will give us the affirmation that we are looking for to fill that void. I hate to break it to you, but that void won't be filled with those things. The Sunday School answer interjected at this point is to say that only God can fill that void. While I don't disagree with that statement, I believe that love and friendship given to and received from others fills that void. When you start realizing that you are enough, and that your things don't make you, then you can settle and relax into the mellow warm area of contentment.
The second question, "Why do we feel the necessity to elevate ourselves above others?" This is a little more difficult to tackle, as there are many reasons that one might feel the need to be superior. You can argue a messiah complex, or maybe they were beat down and suppressed as a child and told they would never amount to anything. There are many reasons one might want to appear above everybody else, and some might surprise you and seem justified. If somebody was told for example all their life that they wouldn't amount to anything, then maybe instead of feeling beat down and suppressed, they take it to the opposite extreme and forcefully put themselves out there in an elevated status, as they feel that they have something to prove. Although going to the extreme other angle is not right or healthy, it is worthy of a second glance that maybe it is not just the other party being cocky and prideful.
The third question we will tackle is, "Is there a need in society to not feel subservient?" This also is a very valid question. Nobody likes to feel like they are beneath somebody else. I have seen this demonstrated time and time again in 3rd world countries. Whether it was Haiti, Jamaica, El Salvador, or Guatemala there was a distinct separation between the upper class in the hills, versus the lower class down in the valley. There really wasn't much of a middle class, thus there was an obvious separation. Unfortunately, here in America with the prevalence of credit, we can falsely elevate ourselves to a different class and hold out the appearance of being someone or something that we are not. We see it every day in the tv shows that we watch, the cars that our neighbors drive, the houses that we mortgage, etc. As a financial planner, I have seen more Doctors with exorbitant debt, because they felt like they needed to keep up appearances.
In conclusion, I don't want to be a poser and act like somebody I am not. One of my favorite movies is "Wild Hogs." In this movie, we see Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy hit the road on motorcycles. They are a group of middle-aged men that in some ways are already living that suburban life as posers with those around them but become even more so when they throw the leather jackets on and hit the road. It is a movie about coming to grips with oneself and refusing to run the rat race of life as somebody else. Each one of us needs to do a self-evaluation from time to time and ask ourselves if the resume I am speaking and living, is truly the person I am now, or who I was. Maybe, just maybe, you are to turn over a different chapter in your life and re-write that resume for the future. Like the Wild Hogs, I refuse to be a Poser in life!
Gregory T. Jacobs
I am just a humble man walking this path of life, and with God's help, trying to leave it a little better place.