Vanity, or “vainglory” as old English writers used to call it, is a hard vice to conquer, says St. John Cassian. When you think you’ve beaten it, then you’re proud of your victory—and vanity is back again.
All vices grow feeble when conquered, and when beaten are day by day made weaker, and lessen and subside both in place and time—or at any rate, as they are unlike the opposite virtues, are more easily shunned and avoided.
But vanity, when it is beaten, rises again keener than ever for the struggle. When we think it is destroyed, it revives again, the stronger for its death. The other kinds of vices usually only attack those whom they have overcome in the conflict; but this one pursues its victors only the more keenly; and the more thoroughly it has been resisted, so much the more vigorously does it attack the man who is elated by his victory over it.
Here we see the crafty cunning of our adversary. When he cannot overcome the soldier of Christ by the weapons of the Enemy, he lays him low by his own spear.
–St. John Cassian, Institutes, 11.7
IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .What am I proud of ? My intelligence? My social position? Being the sort of person who reads books like this one?
Does my vanity—perhaps unconsciously—affect how I treat other people?
Lord, restrain my thoughts, and do not let them wander among the vanities of this world. Grant that I may be united to you in love, unworthy though I am.
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