In order to be successful this month, I need to recognize and admit those areas where I do "vaunt myself" - where I am "puffed up". That is an interesting realization, especially when I am writing publicly about it. First, however, as I always do, for this initial post I am going to put on my parser's hat and focus on the "what" of this resolution - the meaning of vaunting one's self and being puffed up.
As I looked up the word "vaunt", I realized something that I hadn't considered previously. It is a simple thing, but I believe it is important when dealing with this aspect of charity. To vaunt means:
to speak boastfully; brag
Therefore, "Vaunteth not itself" (at the most basic level) means simply to not boast or brag about one's self. At glance, this appears to be focused explicitly and exclusively on one's words - and that is the most obvious and common application. I want to focus on it first, then turn to a more subtle application.
"Boasting" and "bragging" seem to be straightforward and easily understood. They mean, respectively:
to speak with exaggeration and excessive pride, esp. about oneself
to use boastful language
Thus, this injunction against vaunting not one's self means, at the most basic level, to not exaggerate one's abilities and be excessively proud of those abilities. This fits perfectly with the second aspect of charity in this resolution - to not be puffed up ("swollen" or, in practical terms, "feeling self-important; arrogant; pompous"). "Vaunting not" encompasses the outward expression of being "puffed up" inside - and charity includes neither vaunting NOR being puffed up. Thus, the root issue at stake appears to be an internal feeling of superiority that, in its fullness, manifests itself in one's words by raising one's self above others.
It also is interesting to consider that this focus is not directly on "the other" but rather on "itself" - that one's view of one's self is what determines fundamentally one's view of others. It's not necessarily that "they are worse than I am" - but rather that "I am better than they are". That is an important distinction, subtle though it be.
None of this is new or profound, but it's an important point to make - that if I am to be less vaunting of myself and be less puffed up, I need to focus on how I view myself internally as the foundation of how I act externally - that it really is my own self-perception (especially in relation to how I view others) that is the biggest influence on my ability to become more charitable in this particular area.
Next week I want to focus on what type of internal perspective is necessary to develop this part of charity.