Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lust and pride

The other day I was involved in a discussion of Catholic morality and someone pulled out a list of vices they said were typical of men and women. They said this list came from "the Vatican". Well, not exactly. It's the work of Monsignor Wojciech Giertych. He claims to have used a statistical analysis of what people say in the confessional to reach his conclusions.

In any case, I know you are dying to see the list:

The first problem, as a woman in the discussion group pointed out, is that avarice (aka "greed") is so far down both lists. Does anyone believe that? I don't and there we have the key to what is really going in here. This list is really a list of what men and women are most likely to feel guilty about.

Another woman, choosing her words very carefully said, "I can see how this is the list is what you'd get if you asked people but ..." And she stopped there. And it's not hard to figure out why she stopped. To continue would have been to admit something about her own experience that young women, particularly young Catholic women, typically don't admit about themselves. Not out loud anyway. However, she put her finger on the other thing wrong with the list: that it just happens to conform exactly with the most common stereotypes our culture promotes about men and women.

People feel guilty about exactly the things that the culture tells them they should feel guilty about. Thus lust is at the top of the men's list. And thus pride but also, and more tellingly, envy and anger are what women tend to feel most guilty about. And all that proves is that we are susceptible to suggestion.

That, however, suggests a very good moral use for the list. If you wanted to make a better examination of your conscience, and you should, you'd use this list as a key to being more honest in your self examination. If you are a man, you are probably too self-critical when it comes to lust, gluttony and sloth and not nearly self-critical enough when it comes to anger, pride, envy and avarice. If you are a woman, then you are probably too self-critical when it comes to pride, envy and anger and not nearly self-critical enough when it comes to lust, gluttony, avarice, and sloth.

Oh yeah, the title of this post. Another woman in the group (the women were much sharper than the men during this discussion)  suggested that if men and women have complementary virtues, they might just as likely have complementary vices. In that regard, look at men's lust and women's pride. For men are not terribly self-conscious in their lust. They would be a lot more successful about satisfying it if they put more effort into their appearance and manners, for example. And women's pride is interesting. What would you say women are most likely to be proud of? Or, to come at it from another angle, if they are ashamed (shame is a kind of pride), what would you say they would most likely want to change about themselves to remove that shame?

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