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Perspectives: Vanity ~ The Romance Of The Vain

For an introduction to the premise and intent behind this 'Perspectives:' series visit the link provided below, and to enjoy the 'Perspectives:' of my fellow contributors on this theme visit the links listed at the end of this hub ~

"Perspectives: An Introduction"


The Romance Of The Vain

When we hear the word 'vanity' today, we think of someone spending more time than they ought to fiddling with themselves in front of a mirror, someone overly attentive to their appearance, someone who frets more about what others think of their looks than they fret about the quality of their own character. But the reason we've come to use the word 'vanity' to express this shallow preoccupation with physical attributes is because the origin of the word 'vanity' actually has to do with a thing of no real value or measurable worth.

The English word 'vain' comes from the old English 'wane', which means to diminish or decrease . . . so, if someone's attention begins to fade during a lecture or film, etc, we say 'his interest is beginning to wane', or as Spring approaches we might say 'the winter chill is waning'. And from the old word 'wane' we got our use of the word 'want' or 'wanting' to suggest a lack or deficit. So the ideas to diminish or decrease and a lack or deficit are all behind the word 'vain' or 'vanity' . . . when we say that a person is vain we are saying that they give their attention to something that is empty or worthless.

The great question is, I believe, why do so many empty, fading, worthless things claim our interest so urgently and irresistibly? There is something in the very nature of consciousness that things of no real value can appeal to - all parents know the empty promise that dangling keys before an infant offers, yet we all know the sheer delight in the face of so young a human as they gaze at those shiny, tinkling nothings that are useless to them. As we grow, it seems an intrinsic component of human nature to be easily distracted by shiny, loud, new, and different - without reference to any genuine worth or actual value, if it is shiny, loud, new, or different we are too instantly and easily distracted.


As there is no real, substantial worth to things like other's counting us pretty, everyone knowing who we are, having more stuff than we could ever actually use, etc, we are not authentically benefiting directly from any of these things . . . being good looking doesn't fill our stomachs, being famous doesn't keep us warm, having 25 million dollars doesn't really get us anything that 5 million wouldn't get us. These things, in themselves, are vain, they are empty, the only value they have is in fulfilling our own concocted desires for them - like dangling keys before a baby, their more immediate, direct purpose serves only to distract us. So then it seems, the real and consequential question is; what is it that vanity distracts us from? What are the things of this life, of ourselves, that fixating on how others feel about our appearance, that seeking fame, that lusting after abundance, etc, are distracting us from?

from "The Vanity Of The World" by John Newton

Thus in the desert's dreary waste,
By magic pow'r produc'd in haste,
As old romances say,
Castles and groves, and music sweet,
The senses of the trav'ller cheat,
And stop him in his way;
But while he gazes with surprise,
The charm dissolves, the vision dies;
'Twas but enchanted ground:
Thus, if the Lord our spirit touch,
The world, which promis'd us so much,
A wilderness is found.

There is an account in the Bible of Satan coming to Jesus and tempting Him with all the kingdoms of the world - what the devil uses to tempt Jesus with is told to us, but the question is also, what was Satan tempting Jesus from, what was he trying to lure Jesus away from doing? From the rest of Scripture we know that Jesus came with a purpose, He had a work to do, He was on a mission - Jesus came to earth, He took upon Himself human flesh, Jesus was in fact born . . . so that He could die. Satan was, in a sense, dangling shiny, pretty keys in front of Jesus hoping that Jesus would be distracted from His purpose, His work, the thing that only He could do.

I think this is a healthy and useful way for us to look at the vain things that this world dangles before us . . . being thought of as pretty, being famous, being rich, etc, are all worthless, empty things that distract us from the true beauty, the genuine achievement, the authentic prosperity & treasure that we were designed and created to enjoy. We too have been put on earth, we have been given life, because we too have a purpose, we too have a work to do, we too are on a mission . . . and the empty, worthless things of this world have an appeal for us because evil is trying to distract us from why we exist, what we're here for.

The eternal reality behind the material world that our senses inform us of, the truth we can't discover or figure-out, that we can only know through revelation, happily IS revealed to us. God tells us that we were made and put here to love Him and to love our neighbor. Our earthly life is the process God has established through which we learn the truth about love . . . the truth about the 'self' and about unity. This great mystery, how we can fully be the individual souls that God made us to be and yet be united together with Him and with all His children, this seeming puzzle of the one and the many, this is the lesson, this is what we're here learning in this world.


And, this is what evil wants to hinder us from learning. The corruption of this world is that everything God has designed to teach us about 'self' and unity has been contaminated with selfishness . . . God wants us to understand the dynamic of relationship, so He makes us individuals and then instructs us to marry, saying that as two we then become one. The world then comes along dangling the 'shiny keys' of marrying over and over again, of taking your neighbor's spouse, of forcing yourself on someone you're not married to, etc, etc.

God wants us to understand the dynamic of relationship, so He enables us to reproduce, to become a family, to be parents. The world then comes along dangling the 'shiny keys' of abuse, incest, neglect, etc, etc. All the things that God has established to teach us about oneness and wholeness, all the things that are to draw us closer to Him, we have corrupted and so this world twists . . . the world offers us things that feed our lust, that nurse our appetites and desires. The world provides fuel for our selfishness . . . because selfishness, not hate but selfishness, is the opposite of love. And love is the source and accomplishment of relationship, love is the perfect bond of unity.

We are supposed to be learning love, the dynamic of relationship, because we are supposed to be growing to be both fully the 'us' that God created us to be and to be growing in our union with Him and His people - and love is that perfect bond of unity. So, if this world wants to distract us from learning love, it appeals to our self-interest. When we give our attention to how pretty we can make ourselves, when we desire fame, when we seek after wealth, we are foolishly succumbing to the romance of the vain - we are wasting our time on things that simply do not matter in the end, we are trowing away our life.

We are here, we were given this life, not to relish all the temporary things that will crumble away when this life is over, but to grow and mature as the eternal souls that we are and to learn love, the perfect bond of unity. The vanity of the world, the empty and worthless things of the world, appeals to our most corrupt, selfish interests - love appeals to our highest self, love appeals to the 'us' God created us to be.

"The Vanity Of The World" ~ John Newton


MartieCoetser*bravewarrior*Docmo*marcoujor*MickeySr*Gypsy Rose Lee

Scroll to Continue

"The Mirror Image"

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"Mirror Mirror On the Wall"

by marcoujor

"Omnia Vanitas"

by Docmo

"Vanity and Humility versus Pride and Modesty"

by MartieCoetser

"Does it Have a Shelf Life?"

by bravewarrior



Ging on October 13, 2020:

Hi Mickey! Thank you for your post! In our prayer group’s online gathering this morning, we talked about growing in holiness and how vanity, among others, makes us stumble. I am grateful I’ve discovered hubpages and read your take and reflection on vanity. Keep sharing and enriching us more. May God’s rich blessings be yours now and always

Erma P. on April 29, 2014:

Mickey, thank you for this very powerful and most of all the truth. I love to read your true bible prispectives. I have to keep reminding myself to keep focus on the things of God and not the world. Jesus said" Love not the world, nor the things in the world. Keep writing, I hope to be reading.

MickeySr (author) from Hershey, Pa. on October 29, 2012:

Sunnie ~ I'm so happy that you visited my 'Perspective:', so happy you liked it, and so happy you're going to soon volunteer to be one of our guest contributors . . ?

MickeySr (author) from Hershey, Pa. on October 28, 2012:

CrisSp ~ thanks so much for the visit, comment, and the votes . . . it is appreciated.

Karen Silverman on October 22, 2012:

In essence, You've described my life, Mickey...

2 near death experiences will do one of 2 things to a person - 1. open blind eyes to the beauty of life (as opposed to the beauty of themselves) and help develop a deep appreciation of and gratitude for, OR...

2. create an even deeper bitterness, narcissism, and anger..

It's all about one's...'perspective' - and evolution...

I'm now a follower, sir..

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on October 17, 2012:

You are so right values are so important.. Vanity it is so easy to get in front of that mirror getting so absolved in self..many blessings to you and a great write.



MickeySr (author) from Hershey, Pa. on October 17, 2012:

tillsontitan ~ I very much appreciate the favorable and insightful comments, thanks.

MickeySr (author) from Hershey, Pa. on October 16, 2012:

fpherj48 ~ thanks so much for your visit and very generous review, it is much appreciated.

MickeySr (author) from Hershey, Pa. on October 16, 2012:

Gypsy Rose Lee ~ "baubles and trinkets"

. . . that is exactly the gist of it - we ignore and sacrifice so much that is to be treasured for empty, decaying, vain "baubles and trinkets".

MickeySr (author) from Hershey, Pa. on October 15, 2012:

vocalcoach ~ you're the best, you're way too sweet to me, and you're on call to be one of our upcoming guest contributors.

MickeySr (author) from Hershey, Pa. on October 15, 2012:

Docmo ~ "it peels life layer by layer to reveal the empty space within"

I'll count that as mission accomplished.

MickeySr (author) from Hershey, Pa. on October 15, 2012:

bravewarrior ~ "Sometimes someone needs to jerk a knot in our tails to put us back on track. That you just did, my friend!"

. . . always happy to chase your little tail around.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on October 15, 2012:

Mickey, what a thought-provoking perspective on vanity! You've hit the nail on the head by saying that vain is ~

1. Everything that distract us from learning love;

2. Everything that draw our attention to ourselves and our own interest.

Voted up, interesting and extremely thought-provoking!

Sunnie Day on October 15, 2012:

I truly loved your take on vanity and I share so much of your thoughts when it comes to steals the very spirit of man, focusing on things that do not hold any true value...Materialism, selfishness, only focuses on our own wants..somehow we can definitely lose focus on what life is truly about...Thank you Micky on a wonderful, well written hub...All things tangible we hold in our hands or what we see in the mirror can be lost in an instant...the love of God and the love we give to one another is most valuable.

Chinease Proverb: "Vanity blossoms, but never bears.


CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on October 15, 2012:

"All the things that God has established to teach us about oneness and wholeness, all the things that are to draw us closer to Him, we have corrupted and so this world twists ." -- very well said and true to its core.

Excellent hub, packed with wisdom and thoughts to ponder.

Definitely voting up, awesome, interesting and sharing!

Mary Craig from New York on October 15, 2012:

I loved your look at vanity...."being good looking doesn't fill our stomachs, being famous doesn't keep us warm, having 25 million dollars doesn't really get us anything that 5 million wouldn't get us." How true..."God tells us that we were made and put here to love Him and to love our neighbor. "....THAT is the crux of the matter, the purpose of our life. Oh, so they wrote the song, "I'm Too Sexy" for you....I wondered about that ;)

Suzie from Carson City on October 15, 2012:

LOL...I LOVE your exchange with Maria!.....

More than that, this hub has impressed and inspired me, Mickey. Your concept of the "temporary things that will crumble away after this life is over," is one that should awaken the masses and shake us to our core. It is pure truth that Love appeals to our highest self....because at our highest level we realize the Universal Power of Love...............UP+++

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on October 15, 2012:

More living and loving and less keeping up with the neighbors. You are so right. True values mean so much more than all the baubles and trinkets in this world put together. Fascinating read. Hugs.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on October 15, 2012:

Oh Mickey - You've done it again. A timeless message delivered as only you can do. Back to reality and the reminder of vanity - not easy to sweep away and out of our lives. But, I'm learning...I am learning and this hub helps.

Love you Mickey.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 15, 2012:

We love you, Mickey!!

MickeySr (author) from Hershey, Pa. on October 15, 2012:

Maria ~ I am very pretty, actually stunningly pretty, like, I can hardly leave the house kind of pretty . . . I'm just not at all vain about it.

Mohan Kumar from UK on October 15, 2012:

Ah Mickey, your insightful input is a testament to your astute mind. The emptiness and ephemeral quality of all that we can feel vain about is written here with clarity. I always enjoy reading your text - it peels life layer by layer to reveal the empty space within and tells what exactly would look better in that space. Awesome my friend.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on October 15, 2012:

My goodness, Mickey... and here all this time I thought you were another pretty face. Your perspective is refreshing, decent and grounding.

I really like you, sir.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 15, 2012:

What an interesting perpective on vanity, Mickey. And so, so true! We get wrapped up in acquiring 'things' that, in the end don't matter an iota as to why we are here or who we are. We lose perspective. Sometimes someone needs to jerk a knot in our tails to put us back on track. That you just did, my friend!

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