Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Deadly Sin of Vainglory

 


Did you ever wonder at the hypocrisy of politicians who claim to be Catholic and "personally against abortion" but are unwilling to take a firm stance against it? As in: "Personally, I am pro-life but respect a woman's right to choose." (As an aside: note the wordsmithery and virtue signalling implicit in the construction of this ungodly argument, one that seeks to make an atrocity palatable to the crowds with its deceptive focus on "respecting" another rather than the act of abortion itself. And in many cases, abortion right up to birth.) What deadly sin drives a position like this? What vice impels a person to take a stance that pits itself against the commandments of God while at the same time constructing a tower of respectability around an act that is clearly contrary to these laws? 

Its name is vainglory. It is one of the seven deadly sins and aptly named since it is a glory that is in vain. Vainglory's aim is a mere human respect rather than any sort of attempt to please the living God.  Vainglory is very much tied up with the negative trait of "people pleasing". It becomes dangerous when it reaches the point where we are more concerned with pleasing people and "fitting in" than honoring God. It's important to remember that we are bound to that which we love and in the case of vainglory this can leave us tied to another's opinion of us and who (they think) we are. It's one thing to love a person, another thing altogether, their opinions.

The problem with vainglory is that you become the puppet while others are the puppeteers. When your root sin (predominant fault) is vainglory, it's very easy for others to pull your strings. A bit of public shaming (or even the fear of public shaming) is often enough to keep the vainglorious in line with the groupthink of the worldly. The vainglorious man is a weak man, unwilling to pit himself against the crowd since he draws his self-worth from what others think of him. He is the man (or woman) willing to compromise personal integrity in order to retain the world's high opinion of him. At times, he may even sell out God himself in order to uphold his own ego, so great is his fear of the (negative) opinions of others and of not being held in high esteem by them. He is the man who wavers in the face of truth, who postures before the masses: "Pilate, wanting to 'please the crowd' released to them Barabbas". Two thousand years later, we still see him there engraved on the faces of a thousand other political Pilates, faces awash with pride at the adulation of the crowd, guilt-stained hands gloved in the false virtue of "human respect".  

"Out damn spot. Out, I say." Hell is indeed murky. 

But not murkier than the heart of a man who is willing to sell his soul for a quick round of applause.  

The vainglorious man is bound by fear and shame. Vainglory uses the fear of others as its shackles and it affects us all to some degree or another. We act a certain way because we fear what people think about us. We follow the crowd because we fear that we will end up alone and rejected. We want to look good before man and we fear others will speak ill of us. Fear, fear, fear. We end up driven by fear.

 It all sounds very far-fetched, I know, and "surely vainglory is not one of the worst vices human nature is prone to". Until we remember the day that Divinity stood before vainglory and vainglory crucified Him. 


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