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VAINGLORY. The vain-glory of this world is a deceitful sweetness, a fruitless labor, a perpetual fear, a dangerous honor; her beginning is without Providence, and her end not without repentance . Francis Quarles. kenodoxia. PLAN. Definitions and Types of Vainglory 1.1 Evagrius

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The vain-glory of this world is a deceitful sweetness, a fruitless labor, a perpetual fear, a dangerous honor; her beginning is without Providence, and her end not without repentance.

Francis Quarles


  • Definitions and Types of Vainglory

1.1 Evagrius

1.2 St John Cassian

  • Vainglory in today’s context

2.1 How the Teachings are still relevant

2.2 Dangers of vainglory

  • Remedies

3.1 Evagrius

3.2 St John Cassian

3.3 Maximus the Confessor

3.4 More Remedies

1 1 types of vainglory
  • Carnal: focuses on one's things (wealth, power, appearance, prestige, influence, etc.), and says, "Look at how great I am!“
  • Spiritual: focuses upon one's accomplishments (especially those of a spiritual nature, such as fasting, tithing, church attendance, etc.), and says, "Look at how good I am!"
a few definitions


1: excessive or ostentatious pride especially in one's achievements

2 : vain display or show

Philippians 2:3

New Living Translation(©2007)Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

Maximus the Confessor

26. There are many things done by men which are noble in themselves, but still because of some reason are not noble. For example, fasts and vigils, prayer and psalmody, almsgiving and hospitality are noble in themselves, but when they are done out of vainglory they are no longer noble.

1 1 evagrius praktikos

13. THE thought of vainglory is especially subtle and it easily infiltrates those whose lives are going well,

[A] wanting to publish their efforts

[B] and go hunting for glory among men;

[1] it raises up a fantasy of demons shouting,

[2] and women being healed,

[3] and a crowd of people wanting to touch the monk’s clothes.

[4] It prophesies priesthood for him, and sets the stage with people thronging at his door, calling for him, and even though he resists he will be carried off under constraint.

1 1 evagrius praktikos7

13. (continued) Then, having raised him up with empty hopes like this, it suddenly leaps away and leaves him, abandoning him to be tempted either by the demon of pride or by the demon of gloominess, which brings on thoughts contrary to the previous hopes

Sometimes it also hands over to the demon of sexual immorality the man who, a moment before, was being carried off forcibly to be made a holy priest.

1 1 evagrius praktikos8

30.  IT is difficult to escape the [tempting-]thought [logismos] of vainglory, because whatever you do to subjugate it becomes the occasion for renewed vainglory. Our proper thoughts (logismoi) are not all opposed by the demons; some of them are opposed by our own individual vices.

31. I HAVE known the demon of vainglory chased away by almost all the other demons; but then when its pursuers failed, it shamelessly approached, proclaiming to the monk how great [the monk’s] virtues are.

1 1 evagrius praktikos9

32. ONE who has reached knowledge and harvested the pleasure it brings will no longer be persuaded by the demon of vainglory offering him all the pleasures of the world. What could it promise him that would be better than spiritual contemplation? But to the degree that we have not tasted the savor of knowledge, we should eagerly engage in the ascetical life [praktikē], demonstrating to God our goal: namely, that we do everything for the sake of knowledge of him.

33. RECALL your former life and your old transgressions, and how when you were subject to passions you crossed over to apatheia by the mercy of Christ; and how you then left the world that had humiliated you so often and in so many ways.

1 1 evagrius praktikos10

57. TWO in number are the soul’s peaceful states:

[A] the first grows from natural seeds;

[B] while the other is engendered by the withdrawal of the demons

From the first there follow:

[1] humility, with

[2] compunction, and

[3] tears, and

[4] limitless longing (pothos) for God, and

[5] immeasurable eagerness for [our assigned] task.

From the second [arise]

[1] vainglory with

[2] pride, which capture the monk when the other demons go away.

One who perceives the beginnings of the first [peaceful] state will be even more sharply aware of the attacks of the demons

1 1 evagrius praktikos11

58. THE demon of vainglory opposes the demon of sexual impurity; and it is impossible for them both to attack the soul at the same time; for the former promises honor while the latter produces disgrace So whichever of them comes and oppresses you, form within yourself the [tempting-]thoughts of the opposing demon. If you are able, as they say, to use a nail to drive out a nail, you can know that you are near to the borders of apatheia, because your nous is strong enough to employ human thoughts to obliterate demonic thoughts.

But to employ humility to drive away the [tempting-]thought of vainglory, or chastity [to drive away] the [tempting-]thought of sexual immorality with would be a sign of the most profound apatheia. Attempt to practice this with all the demons that are opposed to each other, and you will, at the same time, come to know which passion affects you the most. But with all your power beseech God for the ability to fight off your enemies in this second way.

1 1 evagrius peri logismon


14.[PhK 13] In the whole range of evil thoughts, none is richer in resources than self-esteem; for it is to be found almost everywhere, and like some cunning traitor in a city it opens the gates to all the demons. So it greatly debases the intellect of the solitary, filling it with many words and notions, and polluting the prayers through which he is trying to heal all the wounds of his soul. All the other demons, when defeated, combine to increase the strength of this evil thought; and through the gateway of self -esteem they all gain entry into the soul, thus making a man’s last state worse than his first.

Self-esteem gives rise in turn to pride, which cast down from heaven to earth the highest of the angels, the seat of God’s likeness and the crown of all beauty. So turn quickly away from pride and do not dally with it, in case you surrender your life to others and your substance to the merciless (cf. Pr 5:9). This demon is driven away by intense prayer and by not doing or saying anything that contributes to the sense of your own importance.

1 2 st john cassian book xi of the spirit of vainglory

CHAPTER I – How our seventh combat is against the spirit of vainglory, and what its nature is.

OUR seventh combat is against the spirit of kenodoxia, which we may term vain or idle glory: a spirit that takes many shapes, and is changeable and subtle, so that it can with difficulty, I will not say be guarded against, but be seen through and discovered even by the keenest eyes.

2 1 how the teachings are still relevant today
  • Human nature has not changed.
  • Demons are still around to tempt us.
  • There are countless examples of people’s actions being influenced by evil-tempting thoughts.
  • Western society encourages vainglory, i.e. being proud of ones accomplishments, writing about it, autobiographies, etc.
2 2 dangers of vainglory

St John Cassian : Chapter IX – That vainglory is the more dangerous through being mixed up with virtues

LASTLY, other passions which are entirely different from the virtues which are their opposites, and which attack us openly and as it were in broad daylight, are more easily overcome and guarded against: but this being interwoven with our virtues and entangled in the battle, fighting as it were under cover of the darkness of night, deceives the more dangerously those who are off their guard and not on the lookout.

2 2 dangers of vainglory17

St John Cassian : Chapter IX – That vainglory is the more dangerous through being mixed up with virtues

FOR not only does this, like the rest of his faults, attack a monk on his carnal side, but on his spiritual side as well, insinuating itself by craft and guile into his mind: so that those who cannot be deceived by carnal vices are more grievously wounded through their spiritual proficiency; and it is so much the worse to fight against, as it is harder to guard against. For the attack of all other vices is more open and straightforward, and in the case of each of them, when he who stirs them up is met by a determined refusal, he will go away the weaker for it, and the adversary who has been beaten will on the next occasion attack his victim with less vigour. But this malady when it has attacked the mind by means of carnal pride, and has been repulsed by the shield of reply, again, like some wickedness that takes many shapes, changes its former guise and character, and under the appearance of the virtues tries to strike down and destroy its conqueror.

2 2 dangers of vainglory18

A quick summary:

  • Start losing perspective on reality
  • Priorities become confused
  • Straying from God
3 1 evagrius resisting the eight logismoi
3.1 Evagrius – Resisting the eightlogismoi

15. THE wandering nous is stabilized by[1] reading,[2] vigils and[3] prayer.

Burning epithumia (desire) is quenched by[1] hunger,[2] toil, and[3] solitude. 

Churning thumos (indignation) is calmed by[1] the singing of Psalms, by[2] patient endurance and[3] mercy. 

But all these practices are to be engaged in at proper times and in proper measure.  What is done untimely or without measure is temporary.  And what is temporary is more harmful and not beneficial.

3 2 remedies for overcoming vainglory


  • AND so the athlete of Christ who desires to strive lawfully in this true and spiritual combat, should strive by all means to overcome this changeable monster of many shapes, which, as it attacks us on every side like some manifold wickedness, we can escape by such a remedy as this; viz., thinking on that saying of David: "The Lord hath scattered the bones of those who please men."[390] To begin with we should not allow ourselves to do anything at the suggestion of vanity, and for the sake of obtaining vainglory. Next, when we have begun a thing well, we should endeavour to maintain it with just the same care, for fear lest afterwards the malady of vainglory should creep in and make void all the fruits of our labours. And anything which is of very little use or value in the common life of the brethren, we should avoid as leading to boasting; and whatever would render us remarkable amongst the others, and for which credit would be gained among men, as if we were the only people who could do it, this should be shunned by us. For by these signs the deadly taint of vainglory will be shown to cling to us: which we shall most easily escape if we consider that we shall not merely lose the fruits of those labours of ours which we have performed at the suggestion of vainglory, but that we shall also be guilty of a great sin, and as impious persons undergo eternal punishments, inasmuch as we have wronged God by doing for the favour of men what we ought to have done for His sake, and are convicted by Him who knows all secrets of having preferred men to God, and the praise of the world to the praise of the Lord.
3 3 remedies cont

Maximum the Confessor

8. Whenever you are suffering intensely from insult or disgrace, realize that this can be of great benefit to you, for disgrace is God’s way of driving vainglory out of you. (I, 30)

40. Is it no small struggle to be delivered from vainglory; however, one is delivered by the discreet practice of virtue and more frequent prayer. An indication of this deliverance is to bear no more grudges against anyone who offends us now or has offended us in the past. (IV, 43)

3 4 more remedies
  • ASPIRE. Focus on intense, humbling prayer while recognizing the dangers of intercession, which can invite additional temptations to be vain (i.e., "look how spiritual I am because I am interceding for someone else when I have such serious problems of my own.").
  • Ask yourself, "who do I really want to hear my prayer?“
  • Be aware of the high price to be paid for progress. There are many that want a better position, yet fail to recognize the extra responsibilities that comes with a promotion. In typically vain fashion, they want the prestige, yet are largely unaware of the added burden.
  • Shun recognition and deflect praise. They are poor substitutes for the rewards given by Christ to those who have done a job well.
3 4 more remedies24
  • Talk to others about spiritual matters. Doing so promotes humility. Whenever you learn something from someone else, it reminds you of how much you need others. You can even learn deep spiritual truths from unexpected sources. For instance, parents can gain insights from their children.
  • Do not be "puffed up" by knowledge. Being smart is such fertile ground for vainglory that intelligence has something of a poor reputation. This is unfortunate, and does not have to be the case. It is possible to be both intelligent and humble, but not without being vigilant as well.
  • If vainglory fails to inflate your ego on account of your incredible knowledge, then it might tempt you to take pride in your ignorance. Many times, those who lack certain knowledge will try to minimize the significance of their ignorance by either dismissing it as unimportant or mock those who are not ignorant.
3 4 more remedies25

Do not brag. It feels good to receive some attention, but the act of boasting does more than invite a pat on the back. It also draws unwanted attention.

Imagine a tourist getting lost in a seedy part of a very large city. His clothing, accent, posture, and bewildered expressions would encourage thieves to take advantage of him. Similarly, boasting boldly announces that you are an easy target. It is, by far, the most effective way to show your spiritual naivety.

Be careful when seeking counsel or aid from a fellow Christian. Do not create opportunities for bragging. For example, asking people to pray for you to have strength during a fast can degenerate into an attempt to impress others. If you are asking for help merely to amaze your friends, then you are vain.

3 4 more remedies26

Be consistent and content. Consider the following activities: adding an extra room to a house, buying a larger car, undergoing cosmetic surgery, upgrading to a newer computer, and working out in the gym. There are many valid reasons to enlarge or improve something, but the "bigger and better" mentality can be a dangerous vanity trap. If these decisions do not serve a truly useful purpose, then they are merely vain, ego-boosting monuments to the self.

Try to treat everyone the same way. This is often difficult to do because some people are just more likable than others. Also, people often can put up barriers to being loved. To correct the tendency towards preferential treatment (favoritism is a form of vainglory), treat everyone as if they were Jesus Christ Himself (see Matthew 25). After all, they do bear His image.

summary on overcoming vainglory
  • Question your motivations – Reality check
  • Keep in mind the reasons behind the start of your actions
  • Observe differences among people but do not rank them. Remember that everyone is equal in the eyes of God – we do not have a right to judgethat one is better than the other.
  • Value people for who they are and what they do for the world not for their job, belongings, etc. This would lead to comparison.
  • Do not associate with people who are materially minded
  • Practice humility

Finally…don’t be frightened to feel your emotions.

Chances are God has a bigger plan.

points to ponder
  • Receiving praise is not sinful. Quite the contrary, it can be rather helpful and encouraging, but it does become a sin when you are the one singing your own praises.
  • "A thrown stone does not reach the sky, and the prayer of one who loves popularity will not rise up to God." – Evagrius Ponticus, Eight Thoughts VII.8.


St John Cassian

Maximus the Confessor

bibliography cont
  • Evagrius Ponticus: On Ascetiscim and Stillness in the Solitary Life

  • Evagrius: The Seven Deadly Sins, Origins