Vanitas vanitatum

My younger sister graduated from high school this past June. She won several awards. She was recognized for her outstanding volunteer engagement, for the highest grade in one of her courses, and a ‘catholic’ award. I was so proud of my little sister.

grad (2)(The typical awkward photo: my sister Joan’s graduation, June 2013)

This milestone in my sister’s life was so incredible to partake in, to share in her joy and hard work was priceless. All this hype, however, reminded me of a my own high school graduation. When I graduated from St. Pius X high school, I, too, received some incredible awards and generous scholarships. The coolest award I received was the Shepherd’s of Good Hope Award, which only one person in the whole city received. Though I am not the type to brag, I will in this post in order to shed light onto the absurdity I discovered in my achievements.

In my last few months of high school, I worked quite closely with one of the guidance teachers (whom I will name Mr. Gray) for scholarships and awards. He would tell me whether I received an award, would let me know when and how to proceed with the interviews for the awards, etc. He became a mentor, and for the first time, staff, other than those who taught me, began to recognize me. He was encouraging and supportive. On my graduation day, all the teachers, staff and students at the school congratulated me and I felt so important; I felt like I was on top of the world. My friends were proud, my family were proud. I was proud.

My first semester of university, I returned to my high school. As I walked into the main office, I was filled with pride and anticipation to be recognized. To my great dismay, not a single soul fed my ego. I was upset, and hurt that Mr. Gray didn’t recognize me.

Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanias.

I learned how my ego goes up the roof when too much attention was paid to my physical “achievements”. It’s not bad in itself to be congratulated for hard work, but I allowed it to enrapture me to the point I became selfish and thought myself to be the best, unbeatable even! This, in turn, became a springboard for my pride. It was a very subtle trap, but I am grateful the Lord revealed this to me, despite the pain it caused me.  May we always be vigilant in every situation, mundane or extravagant, so as to either avoid or overcome the temptation to become God.

Deliver us, oh Lord, of our pride.

Teach us humility.

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