Why do some men, with big muscles, often wear muscle shirts? You know, the kind without any sleeves? Or, why do some people, whose arms are completely decorated with tattoos, so often wear short sleeve shirts?
Last winter, I walked to work nearly every weekday morning, and I saw the same very attractive female standing in front of her High School. She was always wore very tight jeans and a sexy thin leather jacket, smoked a cigarette and talked to her friends. Other students would pour out of school buses and hurry into the warm school building. Why was she dressed that way when it was so cold? Why was she doing what she was doing?
Now, for those not well versed in Catholic moral teaching, the egotistical desire for attention may not seem so terrible. What’s wrong with wanting to be noticed? “If you’ve got it, flaunt it,” right? Who, exactly are you hurting if you are vain, egotistical, or just want to be “popular”? Maybe the examples above aren’t so bad, but let me share two personal experiences showing the more malicious manifestations of this spiritual disease:
Some years ago, I was sitting with a few new acquaintances at a religious media conference in Florida. One of the women said that Denny’s was my favorite restaurant. (It’s not.) Upon hearing this, a man sitting next to me, with a straight face, got up and went to sit further away. Yes, I felt insulted. And, keep in mind, this was a religious conference. We were supposed to be charitable and humble!
Recently, I was at a self-serve car wash, sitting in my car and waiting for my turn. A guy driving an obscenely jacked up, huge pick up truck, with massive tires parked four inches from my passenger door and revved his engine in an intimidating manner. Apparently, he felt that since his vehicle was a lot bigger than mine, that he should have access to the wider car wash bay, even though I was there first and was parked in front of it. He got my attention and then condescendingly said, “You’re not seriously planning to use that bay, are you”? There were other, smaller bays available, so I saw his point, but I certainly didn’t appreciate his attitude!
This “I’m better than you” attitude comes under the umbrella of what the Church calls “pride.” It is one of the Seven Deadly Sins and the great doctors of the faith concur that it is the worst. Although we are all infected with a good dose of this demonic poison, we are generally unconscious of it. This desire to “count for much” is manifested in many ways: ambition, greed, self-centeredness, egoism, self-righteousness, conceit, delusions of grandeur, “Keeping up with the Joneses,” snobbery, etc. It can cause envy, strife, enmity, stubbornness, aloofness, insubordination… The great fathers of the faith tell us that pride is the basis of all sin and the reason for Lucifer’s rebellion against God.
I know I’m no saint in this regard. The reason I sometimes feel so offended by the prideful actions or attitudes of others is that I’m infected with a good dose of this poison too! Lord, you came to earth in humility and meekness. Give me the grace to be truly humble!