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Tom Scotus

Are You Vain?

vanity2-frankcowperMany years ago, I attended a Presbyterian Church located near Toronto. I don’t remember the name of the church or of the pastor, but I’ll never forget his sermon:

“When I was young, I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror. I combed and combed my hair and worried about every imperfection, real or imagined, on my face. My mother took notice and rebuked me, ‘If you look hard enough into that mirror, you will see Satan himself!’”

I understood the moral of his sermon, but I never imagined how much it applied to me, until recently. About two months ago, a large red area appeared on my forehead. Soon, bits of skin began faking off it. The same condition occurred under my left eye and beside each nostril of my nose. The red areas were itchy, dry and a little painful. Was it psoriasis? I started to worry, more about the threat to my looks than anything else.

A few years ago, my wife “borrowed” a few really good pictures of me from my photo album and lost them. I was very upset and began obsessing about it. She also likes to take candid photos of my son and me and upload them onto Facebook, without letting me see the photos first. I’m getting on in years and I usually don’t photograph very well, so I often hate those photos.

So, yes, I now realize that I have a problem with vanity, but I know that I am not alone! Consider the zillions of dollars people spend on expensive make up, designer clothes, botox, hair replacement, and cosmetic surgery. You might think that only other people are vain. However, when you see a photo of group of people that includes you, who do you look for first? If the overall photo looks fine but you don’t like the way you look, do you like the photo? Would you enlarge it and put it on your wall?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t care about how we look. Wanting to look presentable or even attractive is not necessarily bad. There is a fine line between a healthy concern for one’s appearance and narcissism – which is a great danger to our souls.

Satan wasn’t always Satan. He was once Lucifer, perhaps the most beautiful of all the angels. Largely because of this, he became proud. He felt that he should be worshipped as god. He rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven. Narcissism is basically inordinate self-love or self-idolatry. It is sinful because only God deserves to be worshipped!

We have no photographs of Jesus or Mary. We do not know if they were physically attractive and the bible gives us no definitive answer. However, because of their holiness, we generally imagine them to be good looking. Holiness is the kind of beauty we should all strive for.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4).