Thursday, November 5, 2009

Integrity and Humility in Résumés

In the name of “marketing ourselves” on our résumés, we are often tempted to present our strengths as greater than they are. We oversimplify the situation and ask “to market?” or “not to market?”, seeking an obvious answer that provides justification for inflating our abilities. But this internal sic et non disregards an essential quandary: will our guiding principle be integrity, or merely persuasiveness?

 When we overlook this question, it is not inevitably because we are morally corrupt people. In reality, we tend to ignore it because we are afraid—afraid that others will notice that our weaknesses exist, afraid that those weaknesses will be perceived as so great that our skills will be discounted. In short, we fear that who we really are is not enough to persuade an employer to hire us. The temptation to disguise and deceive proves most appealing when we do not trust others to witness our shortcomings with a merciful eye. We forget that others, like us, are weak, and assume that they exemplify every strength that we wish we had, except for one: the capacity to forgive.

However, C. S. Lewis suggests in The Screwtape Letters that we ought to give ourselves the same approbation we would give to others for comparable greatness. When we do so, we both recognize our own worth and also see how indispensably others have contributed to it. The opportunities that demonstrate we are valuable people are not of our creation; they are given to us by others. Our power only extends to our ability to collect the courage we need in order to receive the opportunities they offer. When we do so without resisting the forgiveness of others, or concealing our weaknesses, we discover that we are “magnified”. Our weaknesses do not fade into the background, but rather our potential employers can at last see us “up close”, swarming with strengths so potent that few (even ourselves) have ever observed anything like it. In light of these unforeseen abilities, there is essentially nothing to forgive.

Yes, a detailed, honest view of who we are is frightening to put forward. Unlike fiction, there is no safe place in writing résumés. There are no pseudonyms offering concealment, no images to symbolize lingering emotional aches. All we have is who we are, but on closer inspection, we finally find that this is enough. When we truly understand that we have the capacity to exceed expectations and not just meet them, we have the freedom to be honest regarding our shortcomings. In order to have the courage to be humble, we must first display our inherent power to achieve.


  1. "we ought to give ourselves the same approbation we would give to others for comparable greatness."

    I think this leaves out the idea that often we discount the abilities of others because they are too much like our own. for example, "pft, *I* could do that. Thats nothing."

    I'm curious what you think about that. We should have a deep, intellectual conversation. :)

  2. hmmmm interesting. yes, let's talk!

  3. So I don't have anything interesting to say, but I miss you Sara and I feel like I haven't talked to you in forever.