Monday, February 24, 2014

The Braggart's Disease

When we have a strong desire  to be appreciated and recognized but feel we are not, some of us will resort to the strangest schemes to solve our problem. A bulletin for priests recounts two such schemes, selected from a book of essays the writer had read many years before.

A woman in China who had an exquisite bed wanted to boast about it to the  whole world.  Since it was in her bedroom, showing it off to others would be difficult. She needed to find a way to brag about her bed that would seem reasonable.  She decided to spread the rumor  in the neighborhood that she was sick. This would bring many to her house and bedroom where they would see the bed and envy her. At the same time there was another woman who had a beautiful underskirt and was searching for a way to brag  about it.

Here again, since it was an underskirt she needed to find a way to brag about it without seeming to do so. She had heard about the woman who was sick and decided to visit her, and while there find a way to brag about her underskirt. Two women with the same hidden agenda are about to meet, one wanting to brag about her bed, the other wanting to brag about her underskirt. 

The woman with the underskirt, during the visit, did not ask about the problem the sick woman was having;  she was intent only in showing off her underskirt while she was sitting in the chair by the bed. She looked to see if the woman in the bed was looking at her underskirt. The woman in the bed noticed that the woman didn't show any interest in why she was in bed, and so concluded that she was there to show off her underskirt. The woman with the underskirt realized she hadn't asked the woman in bed the reason for her being in bed, and started showing some interest. The woman in the bed then told the woman with the underskirt that they both had the same disease: the braggart's disease.

This desire to be appreciated, says the writer,  comes from our trying  to free ourselves from the feeling of inferiority, and can bring about many personality problems. When this feeling of inferiority takes over, we become interested in externals, and vanity grows,  which makes for an unhealthy inner life. Instead of living according to our philosophy of life and convictions we are overly  concerned about what others may think about us, which makes it difficult for us to live an authentic life. 

When we look at ourselves with the eyes of faith, however, we notice that we have little to boast about, and are able to see more clearly our weaknesses. Even if we should find that there are things we can be proud of, looking at them carefully we notice that they have not been all our doing, having to acknowledge that we have received help from others, from family, from our environment, from God. With these thoughts we are humbled and begin to see our self more honestly.

"The greatest among you will be he one who serves the rest. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, but whoever humbles himself shall be exalted" (Matt.23:11).


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