The biggest stumbling block to communing with God is pride. Many Church Fathers have said that most sins, if not all, stem from pride. If Satan can amplify your pride then he can get you to commit all manner of sin. This will be made easy if you are born with one of three natural gifts that effortlessly make you proud: beauty, singing ability, or intelligence. The more of these gifts you have, the easier it is for Satan to turn you away from God.
…the root of all sin is self-love. From self-love proceed pride, mercenariness, love of pleasure; and from these proceed all other passions, eight of which are considered to be chief, while the rest are without number. Every sinner has all the passions—some in deed, others in embryo—because everyone who sins conducts his affairs with self-love, the seed of all passions or sinful inclinations. —Saint Theophan the Recluse in The Path To Salvation
The worst trait to have in modern times is beauty. The world has become so carnal that possessing just a smidge of beauty, whether you are a man or woman, will lead to limitless material benefits and sexual offers that are hard to refuse. I have witnessed how beautiful women are treated, and I feel sorry for them. To no fault of their own, they are tempted multiple times every day by young men who want to date them, older men who offer them gifts and money for favors, modeling agents, casting agents, charming men in Italy, policemen, politicians, and on and on. What never happens to an unattractive woman is daily background noise to one who is beautiful.
With such a tsunami of temptation, often starting from pubescence, a woman develops enough pride in her beauty and what it can give her that she sees no need for an Orthodox faith. Why supplicate her will to God when there is an unlimited number of men around the world at her beck and call, who treat her like a false god? She merely needs to read one of the hundreds of unread dating app messages on her smartphone to order up her own male slave. What woman can resist this if she hasn’t been brought up with a zealous love of God?
While being a handsome man may not lead to as many material benefits, it does lead to continuous sexual benefits. Such a man will never have a hard time securing female attention and sexual partners. The women who love his appearance will keep him distracted and carnally pleased enough that he also doesn’t see the need to pursue the faith. Even worse for men is that their pride can elevate to stratospheric proportions, to the point that they believe they are without fault. A beautiful woman may look in the mirror and still see a flaw that she cries to others about, but a handsome man may look in the mirror and think he’s some kind of human god. His pride can actually end up separating him from God more than a woman who is tempted at a far greater rate.
2. Singing Ability
Pride is denial of God, an invention of the devil, the despising of men, the mother of condemnation, the offspring of praise, a sign of sterility, flight from divine assistance, the precursor of madness, the cause of falls, a foothold for satanic possession, a source of anger, a door of hypocrisy, the support of demons, the guardian of sins, the patron of pitilessness, the rejection of compassion, a bitter inquisitor, an inhuman judge, an opponent of God, a root of blasphemy. —John Climacus in The Ladder of Divine Ascent
I can’t sing, but I have observed the effects of those who can. During a concert, a male singer receives enraptured and adoring looks from women who have decided that are ready to be intimate with him—just from his singing ability alone. This phenomenon even affects women in the audience who have boyfriends or husbands. The singer doesn’t have to be famous or a major rock star, and he doesn’t have to be good-looking. If a man sings well in a tiny concert at a hipster cafÃ©, he can probably pick from half of the women present with whom to at least go on a date. This makes him feel that his singing is a superpower that will get him what he wants in life instead of God.
Once I encountered a woman who was not attractive in my eyes, but because she was an incredible singer, she comported herself with a proud air as if she were a celebrity. While men don’t generally flock to female singers because of their singing, female singers still receive limitless compliments that elevate their pride. Satan will be quick to come in with thoughts convincing her that she deserves an elevated material existence without any need for God.
The flatterer is a servant of devils, a guide to pride, a destroyer of contrition, a ruiner of virtues, a misleader. Those who pronounce you blessed, lead you astray… —Ibid
If you’re ugly and can’t sing, there’s one more source for you to gain unlimited pride: intelligence. If your IQ is at least 115, which is one standard deviation above the norm, you will be filled with thoughts of intellectual supremacy. If your IQ is 130, it will be a constant temptation to not identify all the people around you as dumb and you as someone who should be their leader. You develop a superiority complex that causes you to not empathize with your fellow neighbor or have compassion for them. You believe that the unwashed masses are “beneath” you and not deserving of the material benefits that you’ve received according to your intelligence. Such an idea has infected oligarchs of the West to the point where their agenda involves massive depopulation through heinous means involving cultural degeneracy and medical poisoning.
Most of my pride has come from my intelligence (it’s fine if you believe I don’t have any). My attractiveness to women varies but my brain productivity is stable, so I have existed for many years in a state of mental superiority. I believed that I was better than other people because I was smarter than them, and they should shut up and listen to me because my big brain visibly pulsates at a more rapid frequency. Not only did this lead to pride, but I developed a false confidence that all my thoughts were correct simply because I was smart. In reality, my intelligence allowed me to better rationalize actions and behaviors that were completely wrong, sinful, and abusive. I believe the intelligent are even more susceptible to delusion because they believe they can never be tricked due to their intelligence.
‘Praises exalt and puff one up; and when the soul is exalted, then pride seizes it, lifts it up to heaven, and casts it down to the abyss.’ —Ibid
Woe to the man or woman who is intelligent, beautiful, and can sing! Within them will be a constant fountain of pride that not only stops them from humbling themselves before God, but which also leads to regular sins of the tongue and body. As someone who has decided for Christ, I’m happy to state that I’m steadily declining in physical attractiveness and also that I can’t at all sing. I may possess some intelligence, but I have my odious past to confirm that it cannot be trusted nor can it be salvific without the Orthodox faith. If you have at least one of these natural gifts, you must be on guard that it does not become a source of pride and distance you from the Lord God. Unless our gifts are used to serve God, we’re using them unwittingly to serve Satan instead.
Read Next: Do You Exempt Yourself From God’s Law?