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Do the clothes make the man or woman?

How important is it to ‘dress for success’?
 

I’ve been in my job for more than five years; everyone says that’s too long and that I should be pushing for a promotion or changing companies. I’ve been trying to get myself noticed for internal promotions, and I’ve been interviewing outside the company, but nothing is happening. One thing the “experts” advise is that you need to look the part, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time and money improving my wardrobe and appearance. The right clothes are supposed to get you noticed and give you confidence, but it doesn’t seem to be helping me much.

The expert says: Stephen Covey, in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, reflects on the tendency in our society today to rely on superficial quick fixes to improve our social interactions. Clothing often becomes an easy way to define our identity. There’s nothing wrong with dressing well to convey a professional or social image. The problem arises when we rely on clothes to camouflage character flaws or shortcomings that result from denying our true identity. Bill George is a former chairman and CEO of Medtronic Corporation. When asked what the most important characteristic of leadership is, he replies, “I believe that leadership begins and ends with authenticity. It’s being yourself; being the person you were created to be.” (Authentic Leadership, 11)

Since God created us, we can conclude that authenticity means becoming what God calls us to be. Clothes and personal improvement techniques mean nothing if we ignore God’s call. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus points out that the Pharisees and scribes were good at appearing to be holy, but they did not live the law of love. Jesus, therefore, admonishes them for not being authentic – “Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside may also be clean.” (Matt 23:26) With this in mind, we might be well advised to examine our own motives and priorities:

• Am I wasting time cleaning the outside while the inside erodes away?

• Do I spend as much time in prayer, reflection, and service as I do in enhancing my physical appearance?

• Just because I improve my outward appearance, am I really improving myself as a person?

Stained-glass windows on their own can look impressive, but it’s only when light shines through them that their true beauty is unveiled. Our outward appearance is like that stained glass – only when we allow God’s light to shine through it will our true and beautiful self be exposed.