The meaning of the word vanity - what it is and why it is bad

Vanity is a property of human character, expressed in an excessive desire to make a good impression, both in the eyes of others and in one’s own perception. The vain person uses all methods; if his real image does not live up to it, then he may well use lies, exaggerations, and statements that humiliate others in order to demonstrate his superiority.

The search for fame and universal recognition, together with admiration, is expressed so clearly that a person takes flattery for truth and appreciates the surrounding sycophants who provide the necessary level of honor and admiration for non-existent merits. The manifestation of traits of vanity is emptiness and groundlessness, that is, vain glory unconfirmed by reality.

The meaning of the word vanity is synonymous with kitsch, pride, arrogance, as well as a whole complex of manifestations called star fever. It is arrogance accompanied by passion and dependence on the experience. A person who feels the need for constant external glorification very soon, like a drug addict, begins to need ever larger doses. And so, if earlier flattery was enough only at work, now it is necessary in personal relationships, where it was quite enough to praise once a week, there is a psychological need for more frequent incentives, even hourly.

There is no initial conditioning of this manifestation among people, as well as patterns among ages, nationalities and religions. Vanity has exclusively psychological prerequisites and often arises where there is a lack of humility or inadequate self-esteem.

To determine vanity, it is dangerous to look at a person’s external manifestations, since the veiled nature of the benefit received can be very high. Thus, a person can consciously take the blame for everything that happens, lead an overly modest lifestyle and be vain. He is just waiting for comments from those around him, appreciating his hermit life and exalting his modesty. Thus, we come to the conclusion that vanity can manifest itself in anyone and in a variety of situations, and not only in relation to achievements and wealth, because some are proud of how they lost everything.

What is vanity

Man, having sinned in paradise, became infected with many vicious aspirations, that is, passions. One of them is vanity. Vanity - what is it?

“Vanity is a vain desire and the search for temporary human praise” (St. Ignatius Brianchaninov. “Ascetic Sermon”). It appears from “from deep ignorance of God or from deep forgetfulness of God” (ibid.).

This passion does not seek virtue itself, but only praise for virtue. Even more vicious is vanity, which is vain and sinful. The Apostle Paul writes about such people: “...and their glory is in their shame...” (Phil. 3:19). The Holy Fathers cite various manifestations of vanity. Boasting, deceit, flattery, man-pleasing, envy, pretense and shame to confess one’s sins (Reverend Cassian the Roman “On the Eight Passionate Thoughts”). Vanity is a reason for many sins for a Christian.

Vanity - willingness to go over one's heads

Ambition and vanity - differences

A person’s desire to be the best in various social spheres is respected. Being a wonderful doctor, teacher, taking your profession with full responsibility and becoming an example for others is what distinguishes ambition from vanity, which is characterized by “empty” drawing attention to one’s person. Ambition and vanity - there is a fine line between them, when one quality can transform into another: at the same time, a person begins to boast about his past merits and how much useful, in his opinion, he has done for society.

Manifestations of vanity

The most destructive manifestation of vanity is hypocrisy. “Hypocrisy is born from vanity” (St. Ignatius Brianchaninov). Vanity prompts a person to perform actions in order to become famous before people. Christ in the Gospel points out that the vain “do all their deeds so that people can see them” (Matthew 23:5).

Such a person deprives himself of a reward for a good deed from God. Vanity is an important sin. The strengthened vanity that has taken possession of a person becomes even more vicious.

Saint Ignatius continues: “Vanity and hypocrisy are terrible in their maturity, when they prevail over a person and turn into a rule of activity, into character. They create a Pharisee who needs the guise of virtue only in order to drown more freely and successfully in atrocities.”

Vanity prompts a person to resort to various tricks to create a good opinion of himself in front of people. Such a person even goes to great lengths to violate the Law of God in order to maintain the appearance of righteousness.

It should be noted that increased vanity became the reason for the rejection of the Savior Himself by the Pharisees. Christ denounced the wickedness of the Pharisees. This exposure was unbearable for them, and they decided to commit a terrible crime. Despite its external relative harmlessness, vanity is a terrible sin in its consequences. A person cultivates within himself the most flattering idea of ​​himself. And when reality tries to destroy these ideas - “I am the best” - we are ready for the most terrible actions. Just to maintain the illusion about ourselves.

St. John Climacus calls vanity idolatry. How to deal with vanity? Let us give the advice of the Holy Fathers.

Impact on life

Vanity is characterized by love of flattery, self-deception, and arrogance. To understand what this means for the person himself and how it affects his destiny, you need to list the less obvious consequences of high self-esteem
: lack of real friends;

  • reputation for being “arrogant”;
  • constant misunderstandings with others;
  • failures in personal life;
  • problems in raising children.

Arrogance is exhausting.
You need to make an effort to receive compliments. Their absence causes negative emotions, so there is no question of internal harmony. A proud person lies to himself and his loved ones. Of course, this undermines their trust. He cannot be entrusted with a responsible task. In addition, although he feels like the strongest, smartest, most beautiful, etc., from the outside he seems repulsive.

Normal family relationships with a selfish person are impossible. A woman will make excessive demands on her children, forcing them to experience constant pressure and stress. A man will most likely marry a weak-willed, withdrawn girl who is easy to suppress.

All of the above describes an egoist living surrounded by people with adequate self-esteem. However, in reality there are quite a lot of proud people. Vanity Fair is the name of a society made up entirely of careerists who will stop at nothing to achieve success. It is made up of hypocrites who are indifferent to each other and who are ready to set up their friends for their own good.

Vanity - passion under the guise of virtue

“Vanity is a spiritual illness. It takes possession of those who have lost the fear of God or have not acquired it” (St. Nicholas of Serbia).

The special danger of vanity lies in the hidden nature of this passion. A vain person does not recognize even his most unsightly actions as something bad. He thinks he is doing the right and justified thing. His voice of conscience is practically inaudible; he sees himself only in a good light. And this is the reason that it is impossible for a vain person to repent. After all, he does not see his sins, does not recognize them as such.

The Monk John Cassian the Roman wrote about vanity:

“Other passions, with the opposition of virtues opposite to them, openly, as if at war on a clear day, can be more easily overcome; and this one, clinging to the virtues, interfering with the formation of the army, fights as if on a dark night, and therefore more insidiously deceives those who did not expect and were not wary of her.”

Possible causes

Character and worldview are mostly formed in childhood, and vanity is no exception.
Like high self-esteem, it occurs when parents constantly praise the child. He should receive praise for his achievements, but undeserved praise becomes the cause of overconfidence. A media personality's vanity causes her much less problems than the average person. If he did nothing in childhood, but constantly heard that he was exceptional, disappointment will overtake him in adulthood: due to fair criticism, he will feel misunderstood and underestimated. This gives rise to intrapersonal conflict. In simple words, a spoiled child turns into an adult who does not know how to adequately assess what is happening.

The opposite situation is possible. A disliked child from a dysfunctional family, who hears something pleasant addressed to him, may become dependent on the approval of strangers, compensating for problems with loved ones. He can also convince himself of exclusivity in order to raise his self-esteem.


Children, whose pride is just emerging, tell lies and treat their younger brothers and sisters with contempt.
There may be problems in the team. They strive for independence and dream of leading an adult lifestyle. Children under five years of age have only minor egoistic manifestations.
For example, they become furious when people try to shame them. Starting from senior preschool age, vanity becomes noticeable. Teenagers are trying to start working part-time, communicate with older guys, and have a sex life in order to get rid of the feeling of inferiority in front of adults that depresses them. Many adults become arrogant when learning something new. For example, they learned a foreign language at an intermediate level. Those who know him less will become an object of ridicule. The reaction to linguists who speak English fluently will be aggressive.

How to overcome vanity

Christ commands in the Gospel to do all good deeds in secret, only before the eyes of God (Matthew 6:1-18).

“The Lord commanded that vanity should be killed with its characteristic hunger. He commanded that all good deeds should be carefully hidden from human eyes” (St. Ignatius).

Even in the Old Testament, God commanded: “With all your offerings, you shall offer salt to the Lord your God” (Lev. 2:13). According to the explanation of the Holy Fathers, the salt of the Israeli sacrifice is the thought and goal of pleasing a Christian to God in his every good deed.

It is necessary to motivate all our good deeds by pleasing God. The passion of vanity is very subtle and difficult to comprehend (Reverend Cassian the Roman). It often has an even more subtle manifestation: self-gratification, self-satisfaction. A vain person is an idolater; he brings a gift not to the Lord, but to his own self.

The Holy Fathers point out an important sign of such insidious passion.

“If you do not have heartfelt tears, you have vanity” (Reverend Barsanuphius the Great).

The absence in the heart of tenderness, memory and contrition for one’s sins is a sign that a person has become carried away by vain thoughts and feelings. It is necessary to increase your attentiveness to yourself, to remember your past sins, your weaknesses.

It is useful to remember the words of the Savior:

“So you also, when you have done all that was commanded you, say: We are worthless servants, because we did what we had to do” (Luke 17:10).


It is important to understand what vanity means in everyday life. It makes sense that a good employee wants to achieve respect in the professional field. Every person dreams that his efforts will be appreciated. It is important to understand what vanity is and to draw a mental line between normal behavior and undeserved desire for flattery.

A vain person is recognized in a team by the following characteristics:

  • painful reaction to criticism;
  • desire to be the center of attention;
  • self-affirmation through humiliation of others.

If we consider the definition of vanity briefly, then it is precisely the pathological love of flattery. At the same time, a person reacts aggressively even to constructive criticism addressed to him, and simply humiliates people he does not like. An arrogant person will never miss an opportunity to point out a flaw to another individual.

“A lot of talk and little action” - this is how society characterizes vain people. They are not lazy to tell every listener about their own achievements, and they perform good deeds only for the sake of recognition. Another essential sign of an arrogant personality is arrogant behavior.

Inadequate assessment of one's own capabilities and dependence on praise lead to the fact that in practice such a person brings almost no benefit. In extreme cases, he uses lies to feed off flattery and seek gain. But a arrogant person is distinguished by mental weakness, and the most terrible punishment for her is the loss of reputation.

Vanity is the enemy of modern man

“A vain person is an idolater, although he is called a believer. He thinks he worships God; but in fact he pleases not God, but people” (Rev. John Climacus).

Of course, in the fight against vain thoughts and feelings, prayer is necessary, accompanied by kneeling and bowing. Prayer is a sword in the fight against any sinful thoughts, including vain ones.

Saint Ignatius advises Christians to think more often about Divine greatness and human sinfulness. He adds: “true humility comes from the knowledge of God.”

Archpriest Andrey Tkachev says:

“People are vain, they want to be caliph even for an hour. They cannot realize their ambitions themselves and shift the burden of these ambitions onto their children. And they are forced to lose their childhood because of the vain whims of their parents. Our vanity is the punishment of our children. Let them be who they are and who they want to be based on their talents.”

The Church also helps Christians by adding repentance to the service. They remind him of the fall of human nature, its weakness, its need for God's help and deliver him from vain intoxication.

Archpriest Sergei Filimonov in his book “The Struggle with Passions” writes:

“Indulging yourself on the spiritual path is a destructive thing. It is the demon of vanity who wants to stop your healing and transformation, calming you down with previous works, posts and merits. But if you have a chronic disease, it was there yesterday, and it will be today and tomorrow. And if you took medications yesterday, and they all have their expiration dates, this does not mean that they should not be taken today. For if they are not taken on time, the disease may resume with the same force. The same is true if you ate food yesterday. This doesn’t mean that you won’t need it tomorrow, and you don’t have to work to earn food.”

Having conquered the insidious passion of vanity, the great saints, with an abundance of virtues and miracles performed, continued to consider themselves sinful people and remained in humility. This is especially true for us, ordinary believers who want salvation.

Definition of the concept

Any representative of society wants to look good in the eyes of others. A simple way to achieve this is to take care of reputation and appearance; for the same purpose, a person devotes time to self-development. Psychology fits such actions into the framework of normal behavior.

But some individuals do everything so that society perceives them as perfect. Vanity is an excessive desire to look better in the eyes of others than you really are. Experts equate the meaning of the word with pride and arrogance. Over time, a person will need constant glorification, not only at work, but also at home.

Vanity is common in everyday life, but not all people can explain it in simple words. In many teams there is a person who diligently hides his shortcomings and cannot stand criticism, but exaggeration of achievements and praise brings him real pleasure.

A vain representative of society strives to surround himself with fans in order to look more advantageous against their background. Senseless vanity involves undeserved compliments. The more self-importance a person has, the more he needs applause and admiration every day. Interestingly, the desire for veneration has much in common with star fever.

Prayers for vanity thoughts

Prayer of Saint John of Kronstadt

Lord, do not let me dream of myself as being better than anyone else, but to think of myself as the worst of all and not to judge anyone, but to judge myself strictly. Amen.

Prayer to Saint Righteous John of Kronstadt

Oh, great servant of Christ, holy and righteous Father John of Kronstadt, wondrous to the shepherd, quick helper and merciful representative! Raising praise to the Triune God, you prayerfully cried out: “Your name is Love: do not reject me, who am erring. Your name is Strength: strengthen me, who is weak and falling. Your name is Light: enlighten my soul, darkened by worldly passions. Your name is Peace: pacify my restless soul. Your name is Mercy: do not cease to be merciful to me.” Now, grateful for your intercession, the All-Russian flock prays to you: Christ-named and righteous servant of God!

Illuminate us with your love, sinners and weaklings, grant us to bear fruits worthy of repentance and to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ without condemnation: by your power strengthen our faith in us, support us in prayer , heal ailments and diseases, deliver from the misfortunes of enemies, visible and invisible: with the light of your servants’ face and move the heads of the altar of Christ to holy deeds of pastoral work, bestow education on infants, instruct youth, support old age, illuminate the shrines of temples and holy monasteries: die, miracle most creative and prophetic, the peoples of our country, by the grace and gift of the Holy Spirit, deliver from internecine warfare; Collect the scattered, convert the deceived and unite the holy catholic and apostolic Church: by your mercy keep marriage in peace and unanimity, prosperity and blessing to the monastics in good deeds Grant this, O cowardly consolation, to those suffering from unclean spirits, freedom, in the needs and circumstances of those who exist, have mercy on us all Instruct the path of salvation: in Christ living, our Father John, lead us to the eternal light of eternal life, so that we may be honored with you with eternal bliss, praising and exalting God forever centuries. Amen.

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