The word ‘vanity’ comes from the Latin word vanagloria, where vanus means ‘empty’ and gloria denotes reputation. It could be translated as ‘empty reputation’. 

We live in a culture that worships the celebrity and where many strive or desire to be famous. Yet, despite some people obtaining fame for certain achievements, it seems that many people are famous simply for ‘being famous’.

“Making noise in the world has come to be considered a great good in itself…newspaper fame has become an idol, worshipped for its own sake”

St. John Henry Newman wrote those words in 1849 and they still ring true today, perhaps more so than ever.

Being a celebrity isn’t bad in and of itself. The famous people aren’t really to blame because it’s others – in particular the mass media – that confer celebrity status onto them.

But we are all responsible for our own vanity. And fame and status-seeking facilitate vanity.

How would you describe vanity?

(Inspired by and adapted from pp. 181-183 of Finding Happiness by Abbot Christopher Jamison)