Essay / Culture

The Un-Resume: An Exercise in Professional Humility

To some of our students, we faculty probably present a daunting picture of excellence. After all, we are professors at one of the most distinguished private Christian universities—we excel in our fields, publish scholarly works about topics they may have never even heard of, are the authorities within our classrooms, and they come to us for advice in matters ranging from the scholarly and the professional, to the familial and romantic. We are teachers, preachers, mentors and even sometimes employers.

But that only tells part of the picture—a very small part, in fact. It altogether ignores our Rejection Just Ahead / selfworthdiet.comhumanity, our fears and insecurities (as people, as professionals and as professors), and perhaps most importantly, our failures.

Toward that end, and in an exercise in humility, I would like to pull back part of the curtain by writing a resume not of my accomplishments and successes, but of my failures—for this too is a significant part of who I am (and who I am not), giving perhaps a more balanced perspective on the life of an academic. I will include in this anti-resume, or un-resume, only those possibilities that were viable possibilities for which I was rejected, omitting the far greater number of opportunities that I pursued, but for which I was not seriously considered.

School Rejections

Undergraduate

  • Wheaton College (I was admitted but received no scholarships)

Graduate (MA Programs)

  • Duke School of Divinity (I was wait-listed and eventually rejected)
  • Notre Dame MA in Theology

Graduate (PhD Programs)

  • University of Marquette
  • Princeton Theological Seminary

Publication Proposal Rejections

Journal Articles:

  • The Crucified Bridegroom: Christ’s Atoning Death in St. John of the Cross and Spiritual Formation Today (Journal for the Institute of Spiritual Formation)
  • God Was in Christ: A Theological Proposal for the Unity and Diversity of the Doctrine of the Atonement (International Journal of Systematic Theology)
  • Where Demons Fear to Tread: Venturing into an Obscure Corner of the Doctrine of the Atonement Regarding the Unfallen Angels (Journal of Modern Theology)

Book Proposals:

  • Cambridge Companion to the Atonement, Cambridge University Press

Faculty Position Rejections

  • Biola University, Torrey Honors Institute, 2010
  • George Fox University, William Penn Honors Program, 2012

Reflection

Perhaps I present as being successful—it’s hard to know whether not something like that is true of yourself. But regardless of how I present, my internal state is quite different. I am full of fears, insecurities, and memories of painful rejections in matters pertaining to jobs, publications, and schools.

And why does this matter? Personally, it matters because of an ongoing struggle against pride. The academy is a highly competitive environment, which can, at times, cultivate a competitive and prideful spirit among its members—a spirit I have felt powerfully at work in myself at different times. A helpful antidote to such a spirit is a list of rejections and closed doors, the paths I would have chosen, but never got to walk. Not that a list of failures is sufficient to cultivate true humility—for that is far too lively and powerful a force to be cultivated by mere awareness of failure—but perhaps it can play an assisting role in that regard.

Publicly, it matters because the academy is a hard road to hoe, and many of those who make it have long track records of rejections to complement the resumes of their successes. Those who would set out on such a road should not be overly daunted as doors close in their faces, but should also be prepared for a good if not excessive amount of rejection and failure. Perhaps, my anti-resume will play a helpful role in this regard.

NB: This post originally appeared on Dr. Johnson’s website. 

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