QUESTION 132: OF VAINGLORY
We must now consider vainglory: under which head there are five points
(1) Whether desire of glory is a sin?
(2) Whether it is opposed to magnanimity?
(3) Whether it is a mortal sin?
(4) Whether it is a capital vice?
(5) Of its daughters.
Article 1: Whether the desire of glory is a sin?
Objection 1: It seems that the desire of glory is not a sin. For no one sins
in being likened to God: in fact we are commanded (Eph. 5:1): "Be ye . .
. followers of God, as most dear children." Now by seeking glory man
seems to imitate God, Who seeks glory from men: wherefore it is written
(Is. 43:6,7): "Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of
the earth. And every one that calleth on My name, I have created him for
My glory." Therefore the desire for glory is not a sin.
Objection 2: Further, that which incites a mar to do good is apparently not a
sin. Now the desire of glory incites men to do good. For Tully says (De
Tusc. Quaest. i) that "glory inflames every man to strive his utmost":
and in Holy Writ glory is promised for good works, according to Rm. 2:7:
"To them, indeed, who according to patience in good work . . . glory and
honor" [*Vulg.: 'Who will render to every man according to his works, to
them indeed who . . . seek glory and honor and incorruption, eternal
life.']. Therefore the desire for glory is not a sin.
Objection 3: Further, Tully says (De Invent. Rhet. ii) that glory is
"consistent good report about a person, together with praise": and this
comes to the same as what Augustine says (Contra Maximin. iii), viz. that
glory is, "as it were, clear knowledge with praise." Now it is no sin to
desire praiseworthy renown: indeed, it seems itself to call for praise,
according to Ecclus. 41:15, "Take care of a good name," and Rm. 12:17,
"Providing good things not only in the sight of God, but also in the
sight of all men." Therefore the desire of vainglory is not a sin.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Civ. Dei v): "He is better advised
who acknowledges that even the love of praise is sinful."
I answer that, Glory signifies a certain clarity, wherefore Augustine
says (Tract. lxxxii, c, cxiv in Joan.) that to be "glorified is the same
as to be clarified." Now clarity and comeliness imply a certain display:
wherefore the word glory properly denotes the display of something as
regards its seeming comely in the sight of men, whether it be a bodily or
a spiritual good. Since, however, that which is clear simply can be seen
by many, and by those who are far away, it follows that the word glory
properly denotes that somebody's good is known and approved by many,
according to the saying of Sallust (Catilin.) [*The quotation is from
Livy: Hist., Lib. XXII C, 39]: "I must not boast while I am addressing
But if we take the word glory in a broader sense, it not only consists
in the knowledge of many, but also in the knowledge of few, or of one, or
of oneself alone, as when one considers one's own good as being worthy of
praise. Now it is not a sin to know and approve one's own good: for it is
written (1 Cor. 2:12): "Now we have received not the spirit of this
world, but the Spirit that is of God that we may know the things that are
given us from God." Likewise it is not a sin to be willing to approve
one's own good works: for it is written (Mt. 5:16): "Let your light shine
before men." Hence the desire for glory does not, of itself, denote a
sin: but the desire for empty or vain glory denotes a sin: for it is
sinful to desire anything vain, according to Ps. 4:3, "Why do you love
vanity, and seek after lying?"
Now glory may be called vain in three ways. First, on the part of the
thing for which one seeks glory: as when a man seeks glory for that which
is unworthy of glory, for instance when he seeks it for something frail
and perishable: secondly, on the part of him from whom he seeks glory,
for instance a man whose judgment is uncertain: thirdly, on the part of
the man himself who seeks glory, for that he does not refer the desire of
his own glory to a due end, such as God's honor, or the spiritual welfare
of his neighbor.
Reply to Objection 1: As Augustine says on Jn. 13:13, "You call Me Master and
Lord; and you say well" (Tract. lviii in Joan.): "Self-complacency is
fraught with danger of one who has to beware of pride. But He Who is
above all, however much He may praise Himself, does not uplift Himself.
For knowledge of God is our need, not His: nor does any man know Him
unless he be taught of Him Who knows." It is therefore evident that God
seeks glory, not for His own sake, but for ours. In like manner a man may
rightly seek his own glory for the good of others, according to Mt. 5:16,
"That they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Who is in
Reply to Objection 2: That which we receive from God is not vain but true glory:
it is this glory that is promised as a reward for good works, and of
which it is written (2 Cor. 10:17,18): "He that glorieth let him glory in
the Lord, for not he who commendeth himself is approved, but he whom God
commendeth." It is true that some are heartened to do works of virtue,
through desire for human glory, as also through the desire for other
earthly goods. Yet he is not truly virtuous who does virtuous deeds for
the sake of human glory, as Augustine proves (De Civ. Dei v).
Reply to Objection 3: It is requisite for man's perfection that he should know
himself; but not that he should be known by others, wherefore it is not
to be desired in itself. It may, however, be desired as being useful for
something, either in order that God may be glorified by men, or that men
may become better by reason of the good they know to be in another man,
or in order that man, knowing by the testimony of others' praise the good
which is in him, may himself strive to persevere therein and to become
better. In this sense it is praiseworthy that a man should "take care of
his good name," and that he should "provide good things in the sight of
God and men": but not that he should take an empty pleasure in human
Article 2: Whether vainglory is opposed to magnanimity?
Objection 1: It seems that vainglory is not opposed to magnanimity. For, as
stated above (Article ), vainglory consists in glorying in things that are
not, which pertains to falsehood; or in earthly and perishable things,
which pertains to covetousness; or in the testimony of men, whose
judgment is uncertain, which pertains to imprudence. Now these vices are
not contrary to magnanimity. Therefore vainglory is not opposed to
Objection 2: Further, vainglory is not, like pusillanimity, opposed to
magnanimity by way of deficiency, for this seems inconsistent with
vainglory. Nor is it opposed to it by way of excess, for in this way
presumption and ambition are opposed to magnanimity, as stated above
(Question , Article ; Question , Article ): and these differ from vainglory. Therefore
vainglory is not opposed to magnanimity.
Objection 3: Further, a gloss on Phil. 2:3, "Let nothing be done through
contention, neither by vainglory," says: "Some among them were given to
dissension and restlessness, contending with one another for the sake of
vainglory." But contention [*Cf. Question ] is not opposed to magnanimity.
Neither therefore is vainglory.
On the contrary, Tully says (De Offic. i) under the heading,
"Magnanimity consists in two things: We should beware of the desire for
glory, since it enslaves the mind, which a magnanimous man should ever
strive to keep untrammeled." Therefore it is opposed to magnanimity.
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article , ad 3), glory is an effect
of honor and praise: because from the fact that a man is praised, or
shown any kind of reverence, he acquires charity in the knowledge of
others. And since magnanimity is about honor, as stated above (Question , Articles ,2), it follows that it also is about glory: seeing that as a man
uses honor moderately, so too does he use glory in moderation. Wherefore
inordinate desire of glory is directly opposed to magnanimity.
Reply to Objection 1: To think so much of little things as to glory in them is
itself opposed to magnanimity. Wherefore it is said of the magnanimous
man (Ethic. iv) that honor is of little account to him. In like manner he
thinks little of other things that are sought for honor's sake, such as
power and wealth. Likewise it is inconsistent with magnanimity to glory
in things that are not; wherefore it is said of the magnanimous man
(Ethic. iv) that he cares more for truth than for opinion. Again it is
incompatible with magnanimity for a man to glory in the testimony of
human praise, as though he deemed this something great; wherefore it is
said of the magnanimous man (Ethic. iv), that he cares not to be praised.
And so, when a man looks upon little things as though they were great,
nothing hinders this from being contrary to magnanimity, as well as to
Reply to Objection 2: He that is desirous of vainglory does in truth fall short
of being magnanimous, because he glories in what the magnanimous man
thinks little of, as stated in the preceding Reply. But if we consider
his estimate, he is opposed to the magnanimous man by way of excess,
because the glory which he seeks is something great in his estimation,
and he tends thereto in excess of his deserts.
Reply to Objection 3: As stated above (Question , Article , ad 2), the opposition of
vices does not depend on their effects. Nevertheless contention, if done
intentionally, is opposed to magnanimity: since no one contends save for
what he deems great. Wherefore the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 3) that
the magnanimous man is not contentious, because nothing is great in his
Article 3: Whether vainglory is a mortal sin?
Objection 1: It seems that vainglory is a mortal sin. For nothing precludes
the eternal reward except a mortal sin. Now vainglory precludes the
eternal reward: for it is written (Mt. 6:1): "Take heed, that you do not
give justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have
a reward of your Father Who is in heaven." Therefore vainglory is a
Objection 2: Further, whoever appropriates to himself that which is proper to
God, sins mortally. Now by desiring vainglory, a man appropriates to
himself that which is proper to God. For it is written (Is. 42:8): "I
will not give My glory to another," and (1 Tim. 1:17): "To . . . the only
God be honor and glory." Therefore vainglory is a mortal sin.
Objection 3: Further, apparently a sin is mortal if it be most dangerous and
harmful. Now vainglory is a sin of this kind, because a gloss of
Augustine on 1 Thess. 2:4, "God, Who proveth our hearts," says: "Unless a
man war against the love of human glory he does not perceive its baneful
power, for though it be easy for anyone not to desire praise as long as
one does not get it, it is difficult not to take pleasure in it, when it
is given." Chrysostom also says (Hom. xix in Matth.) that "vainglory
enters secretly, and robs us insensibly of all our inward possessions."
Therefore vainglory is a mortal sin.
On the contrary, Chrysostom says [*Hom. xiii in the Opus Imperfectum
falsely ascribed to St. John Chrysostom] that "while other vices find
their abode in the servants of the devil, vainglory finds a place even in
the servants of Christ." Yet in the latter there is no mortal sin.
Therefore vainglory is not a mortal sin.
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article ; Question , Article ; Question , Article ), a sin is mortal through being contrary to charity. Now the sin of
vainglory, considered in itself, does not seem to be contrary to charity
as regards the love of one's neighbor: yet as regards the love of God it
may be contrary to charity in two ways. In one way, by reason of the
matter about which one glories: for instance when one glories in
something false that is opposed to the reverence we owe God, according to
Ezech. 28:2, "Thy heart is lifted up, and Thou hast said: I am God," and
1 Cor. 4:7, "What hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast
received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" Or
again when a man prefers to God the temporal good in which he glories:
for this is forbidden (Jer. 9:23,24): "Let not the wise man glory in his
wisdom, and let not the strong man glory in his strength, and let not the
rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth glory in this,
that he understandeth and knoweth Me." Or again when a man prefers the
testimony of man to God's; thus it is written in reproval of certain
people (Jn. 12:43): "For they loved the glory of men more than the glory
In another way vainglory may be contrary to charity, on the part of the
one who glories, in that he refers his intention to glory as his last
end: so that he directs even virtuous deeds thereto, and, in order to
obtain it, forbears not from doing even that which is against God. In
this way it is a mortal sin. Wherefore Augustine says (De Civ. Dei v, 14)
that "this vice," namely the love of human praise, "is so hostile to a
godly faith, if the heart desires glory more than it fears or loves God,
that our Lord said (Jn. 5:44): How can you believe, who receive glory one
from another, and the glory which is from God alone, you do not seek?"
If, however, the love of human glory, though it be vain, be not
inconsistent with charity, neither as regards the matter gloried in, nor
as to the intention of him that seeks glory, it is not a mortal but a
Reply to Objection 1: No man, by sinning, merits eternal life: wherefore a
virtuous deed loses its power to merit eternal life, if it be done for
the sake of vainglory, even though that vainglory be not a mortal sin. On
the other hand when a man loses the eternal reward simply through
vainglory, and not merely in respect of one act, vainglory is a mortal
Reply to Objection 2: Not every man that is desirous of vainglory, desires the
excellence which belongs to God alone. For the glory due to God alone
differs from the glory due to a virtuous or rich man.
Reply to Objection 3: Vainglory is stated to be a dangerous sin, not only on
account of its gravity, but also because it is a disposition to grave
sins, in so far as it renders man presumptuous and too self-confident:
and so it gradually disposes a man to lose his inward goods.
Article 4: Whether vainglory is a capital vice?
Objection 1: It seems that vainglory is not a capital vice. For a vice that always arises from another vice is seemingly not capital. But vainglory always arises from pride. Therefore vainglory is not a capital vice.
Objection 2: Further, honor would seem to take precedence of glory, for this
is its effect. Now ambition which is inordinate desire of honor is not a
capital vice. Neither therefore is the desire of vainglory.
Objection 3: Further, a capital vice has a certain prominence. But vainglory
seems to have no prominence, neither as a sin, because it is not always a
mortal sin, nor considered as an appetible good, since human glory is
apparently a frail thing, and is something outside man himself. Therefore
vainglory is not a capital vice.
On the contrary, Gregory (Moral. xxxi) numbers vainglory among the seven
I answer that, The capital vices are enumerated in two ways. For some
reckon pride as one of their number: and these do not place vainglory
among the capital vices. Gregory, however (Moral. xxxi), reckons pride to
be the queen of all the vices, and vainglory, which is the immediate
offspring of pride, he reckons to be a capital vice: and not without
reason. For pride, as we shall state farther on (Question , Articles ,2),
denotes inordinate desire of excellence. But whatever good one may
desire, one desires a certain perfection and excellence therefrom:
wherefore the end of every vice is directed to the end of pride, so that
this vice seems to exercise a kind of causality over the other vices, and
ought not to be reckoned among the special sources of vice, known as the
capital vices. Now among the goods that are the means whereby man
acquires honor, glory seems to be the most conducive to that effect,
inasmuch as it denotes the manifestation of a man's goodness: since good
is naturally loved and honored by all. Wherefore, just as by the glory
which is in God's sight man acquires honor in Divine things, so too by
the glory which is in the sight of man he acquires excellence in human
things. Hence on account of its close connection with excellence, which
men desire above all, it follows that it is most desirable. And since
many vices arise from the inordinate desire thereof, it follows that
vainglory is a capital vice.
Reply to Objection 1: It is not impossible for a capital vice to arise from pride, since as stated above (in the body of the Article and FS, Question , Article ) pride is the queen and mother of all the vices.
Reply to Objection 2: Praise and honor, as stated above (Article ), stand in relation
to glory as the causes from which it proceeds, so that glory is compared
to them as their end. For the reason why a man loves to be honored and
praised is that he thinks thereby to acquire a certain renown in the
knowledge of others.
Reply to Objection 3: Vainglory stands prominent under the aspect of desirability, for the reason given above, and this suffices for it to be reckoned a capital vice. Nor is it always necessary for a capital vice to be a mortal sin; for mortal sin can arise from venial sin, inasmuch as venial sin can dispose man thereto.
Article 5: Whether the daughters of vainglory are suitably reckoned to be disobedience, boastfulness, hypocrisy, contention, obstinacy, discord, and love of novelties?
Objection 1: It seems that the daughters of vainglory are unsuitably reckoned
to be "disobedience, boastfulness, hypocrisy, contention, obstinacy,
discord, and eccentricity [*Praesumptio novitatum, literally 'presumption
of novelties']." For according to Gregory (Moral. xxiii) boastfulness is
numbered among the species of pride. Now pride does not arise from
vainglory, rather is it the other way about, as Gregory says (Moral.
xxxi). Therefore boastfulness should not be reckoned among the daughters
Objection 2: Further, contention and discord seem to be the outcome chiefly of
anger. But anger is a capital vice condivided with vainglory. Therefore
it seems that they are not the daughters of vainglory.
Objection 3: Further, Chrysostom says (Hom. xix in Matth.) that vainglory is
always evil, but especially in philanthropy, i.e. mercy. And yet this is
nothing new, for it is an established custom among men. Therefore
eccentricity should not be specially reckoned as a daughter of vainglory.
On the contrary, stands the authority of Gregory (Moral. xxxi), who
there assigns the above daughters to vainglory.
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Article ; Question , Article ; FS, Question , Articles ,4), the vices which by their very nature are such as to be directed
to the end of a certain capital vice, are called its daughters. Now the
end of vainglory is the manifestation of one's own excellence, as stated
above (Articles ,4): and to this end a man may tend in two ways. In one way
directly, either by words, and this is boasting, or by deeds, and then if
they be true and call for astonishment, it is love of novelties which men
are wont to wonder at most; but if they be false, it is hypocrisy. In
another way a man strives to make known his excellence by showing that he
is not inferior to another, and this in four ways. First, as regards the
intellect, and thus we have "obstinacy," by which a man is too much
attached to his own opinion, being unwilling to believe one that is
better. Secondly, as regards the will, and then we have "discord,"
whereby a man is unwilling to give up his own will, and agree with
others. Thirdly, as regards "speech," and then we have "contention,"
whereby a man quarrels noisily with another. Fourthly as regards deeds,
and this is "disobedience," whereby a man refuses to carry out the
command of his superiors.
Reply to Objection 1: As stated above (Question , Article , ad 2), boasting is reckoned
a kind of pride, as regards its interior cause, which is arrogance: but
outward boasting, according to Ethic. iv, is directed sometimes to gain,
but more often to glory and honor, and thus it is the result of vainglory.
Reply to Objection 2: Anger is not the cause of discord and contention, except in
conjunction with vainglory, in that a man thinks it a glorious thing for
him not to yield to the will and words of others.
Reply to Objection 3: Vainglory is reproved in connection with almsdeeds on
account of the lack of charity apparent in one who prefers vainglory to
the good of his neighbor, seeing that he does the latter for the sake of
the former. But a man is not reproved for presuming to give alms as
though this were something novel.