continued from here
There are haughty, vain-glorious and prideful responses to shame. I use the plural because pride and vainglory are two different things. Pride doesn’t care what other people think. It thinks too much of itself to value another’s opinion. Vainglory cares too much what other people think. It can despair in the face of shame and give up. These are both self-protective responses.
Giving up removes one from the threat of repeating the incident of being thought badly of. “I just wont play anymore.” Conversely, pride can numb a person from feeling the effects of bad opinion. “Think what you will, I’m going to keep doing this ill-thought of thing anyway.”
These both stem from an expectation of perfection in oneself, even if perfection is defined as being naturally sloppy. In this day and age sloppiness is esteemed as an antidote to snobbiness. Rules are for the snobby. And there is a Pharisaical bad example that can lead one to despise rules for rule’s sake. The prideful pharisee doesn’t care what the sloppy people think, and the prideful sloppy people don’t care what the pharisee thinks. They disdain each other.
But what if the sloppy person starts admiring the rule-keeping person? Then he becomes aware of how he falls short. This leads to shame. He imagines that the ruley person disdains unruly people, especially when the latter spends a lot of time criticizing unruliness.
But there are commands, and they should be followed. There are rewards for the Saints, and the rest of us will wish we had been more pure and sinless. In the mean time, one has to deal with his shame and his sins. The humble person is aware of his sins and is pained by them. He is ashamed of having no wedding garment fit to wear. But he does not despair. He approaches boldly anyway. But not too boldly. He can’t ignore his unworthiness. He has to accept that there are consequences to sin. That he doesn’t deserve the seat of honor. He should mourn for this. It does seem vainglorious to be sad about not being honored, though. He should learn from people who don’t seek the higher places.
But surely the ambitious person can shoot for something. Vainglory is a passion, but intimacy with God, the highest of all, should be a goal for everyone. “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.” We are to keep running the race. We should try harder when we fall short, even if the falling is in wanting recognition. We should want the ability to win the race, but not the reward? It’s sweet when a winner gives his award away, or when he dedicates his running to someone else. I have heard some athletes describe their winning performance as resulting from being in the zone. They are not self-consciously striving, but they are able to be in the moment and enjoy what they are doing, not so distracted about how hard it is. Stephen was in the zone when the Jews were casting stones at him. But blameless Christ was almost crushed by his suffering. The publican suffered over his unworthiness. The good son suffered over rewards given to his less worthy brother. Who knows the cause of my suffering? Let it do its work regardless, I say.