What Is Vainglory

Do Not Wish Other People to Know Your Good Deeds

Saint Theophan the Recluse. "Thoughts for Each Day of the Year".

St. Theophan the Recluse

[Gal. 2:6-10; Mark 5:22-24, 35-6:1] Having resurrected the daughter of Jairus, the Lord charged her parents straitly, that no man should know it. Thus are we commanded: do not seek glory, and do not train your ear for human praises, even if your deeds are of such a nature that it is impossible to hide them. Do what the fear of God and your conscience urge you to do, and behave as though such talk did not exist. Look after your soul—as soon as it inclines the slightest degree in this direction, return it to its place. A desire for people to know is provoked by a desire for praise. When there is praise the goal is achieved; but this undermines one’s energy and suppresses the praiseworthy activity, and consequently suppresses the continuation of praise. Thus, one who wants people to know of his good deeds is his own betrayer. It is a good thing for people to praise what is good—for why wouldn’t someone praise what is good? But do not keep this in your thoughts; do not expect it and do not seek it. Indulge yourself in this and you will be totally spoiled. One indulgence leads to another. Increasing the frequency of the same deeds turns them into a habit, and you will be a lover of praise. When you come to that point, then not all of your deeds will be praiseworthy, and praise will cease. Because you lack praise from others, you will begin to praise yourself, and this is what the Lord called sounding a trumpet before oneself. This is even worse. The soul then becomes petty, and chases solely after tinsel. Do not expect true good to come from such a soul.

Elder Paul (Troitsky) about vainglory from good deeds

Elder Paul (Troitsky) (1894-1991)

Archpriest Vladimir Vorob'yov. "Hieromonk Paul (Troitsky)".

From a letter of elder Paul.

You know, Olushka, my joy, I see that the spirit of the time has captured many people, especially those born in the 30s, 40s, etc.. If someone has done something, he can reveal his good deeds. It's disgusting, and it would be better that they never had done anything good for anybody. I write this with full responsibility - that it is so.

This article in Russian

Elder John on Accusation in Vainglory

Letters of Valaam elder John (Alexeev)


New Valamo

Letter 118

Schema-hegumen John (Alexeev)

Honoured in Christ N.

I have received your letter, and you are rebuking me for having vainglory, saying that I write letters because of my vainglory.

I am very surprised myself why I started corresponding merely by chance with different people. Certainly, the reason is that I am a priest and a spiritual advisor.  Some of my spiritual children asked me different questions, and I, in my madness, answered their questions, saying what I had in my heart; I never had an idea to publish my letters. There were some people asking me for my agreement to publish my letters and I agreed with their proposal. I said: ‘If you have found something useful, God bless you, you may collect my letters. I gave them the addresses of my correspondence.’

I cannot say that I have no vainglory. This is a sophisticated passion, mixing with every virtue, attacking even Saints, sticking even on them. However, they are so afraid of this impudent passion that consider it as spraying tar on white clothes.

This insane passion can be noticed only in case of very attentive spiritual life. If one guards one’s heart with prayer, he will see the vainglory thought attacking his heart. O insane vainglory, you like to show off your works so much! Sometimes you work even more to make people see them and praise you. The work of a vainglorious man are in vain: fasting, prostrations and other bodily works, because he is doing than for his one glory. However, Our Lord commands to do everything in secret, and rebukes the Pharisees for their vainglorious behaviour.

A Penance from God after Compliments

A story included only in English edition of "My Elder Joseph the Hesychast".

Elder Joseph the Hesychast (1897 - 1959)

Only once in his life did Elder Joseph not wake up for his vigil. One day Papa-Ananias said to him, “Geronda, is there anyone else in the entire Holy Mountain who mindfully and seriously practices hesychasm with praxis and theoria? I doubt it. You are the only one.”

He was momentarily enticed by this compliment, and his face looked as if he was in a daze. But a second later he regained his senses and exclaimed, “Get behind me, Satan!” and punched himself on the thigh with all his might. “Forgive me, my God!” As a “penance” for him, God allowed him to be so sleepy the following night that he slept right through his vigil until late in the morning. To make up for not doing his prayer rule that night, he did it during the day instead of working.

After experiencing how easy it is to accept vainglorious thoughts and seeing how much damage they do, he later wrote to someone: “Be careful … not to compliment one another in each other’s presence, for if compliments harm the perfect, how much more harmful they will be to you who are still weak.”


Vainglory in Bible

KJV Dictionary Definition: Vainglorious

VAINGLO'RIOUS, a. vain and glorious.

1. Vain to excess of one's own achievements; elated beyond due measure; boastful.

Vainglorious man.

2. Boastful; proceeding from vanity.

Arrogant and vainglorious expression.

VAINGLO'RIOUSLY, adv. With empty pride.

VAINGLO'RY, n. vain and glory. Exclusive vanity excited by one's own performances; empty pride; undue elation of mind.

He hath nothing of vainglory.

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory. Phil. 2.


On Vainglory

Saint John Climacus. "The Ladder of Divine Ascent". Step 22.

Some would hold that vainglory is to be distinguished from pride, and so they give it a special place and chapter. Hence their claim that there are eight deadly sins. But against this is the view of Gregory the Theologian and other teachers that in fact the number is seven. I also hold this view. After all, what pride remains in a man who has conquered vainglory? The difference is between a child and a man, between wheat and bread, for the first is a beginning and the second an end. Therefore, as the occasion demands, let us talk about the unholy vice of self-esteem, the beginning and completion of the passions; and let us talk briefly, for to undertake an exhaustive discussion would be to act like someone who inquires into the weight of the winds.

From the point of view of form, vainglory is a change of nature, a perversion of character, a taking note of criticism." As for its quality, it is a waste of work and sweat, a betrayal of treasure, an offspring of unbelief, a harbinger of pride, shipwreck in port, the ant on the threshing floor, small and yet with designs on all the fruit of one's labor. The ant waits until the wheat is in, vainglory until the riches of excellence are gathered; the one a thief, the other a wastrel.

The spirit of despair exults at the sight of mounting vice, the spirit of vainglory at the sight of the growing treasures of virtue. The door for the one is a mass of wounds, while the gateway for the other is the wealth of hard work done.
Watch vainglory. Notice how, until the very day of the burial it rejoices in clothes, oils, servants, perfumes, and such like.

Holy Fathers on Vainglory

Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers on Vainglory

...as soon as a man understands and truly feels his weakness, he immediately puts a restraint on the vain pride of his soul which obscures reason, and thus he gains protection... The Monks Callistus and Ignatius (Directions to Hesychasts no. 16i, Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart; Faber and Faber pg. 187-188)

Abba Nisterus the Great was walking in the desert with a brother. They saw a dragon and they ran away. The brother said to him, "Were you frightened too, Father?" The old man said to him, "I am not afraid, my child, but it is better for me to flee, so as not to have to flee from the spirit of vainglory." Sr. Benedicta Ward, "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers," (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1975), pp. 153-155

All who ask and do not obtain their requests from God, are denied for one of the following reasons; because they ask at the wrong time, or because they ask unworthily and vaingloriously, or because if they received they would become conceited, or finally because they would become negligent after obtaining their request. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), Step26: On Discernment of Thoughts, Passions and Virtue

On the Spirit of Vainglory

Saint John Cassian. "Institutes".


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.

How vainglory attacks a monk not only on his carnal, but also on his spiritual side.

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.