The Two Standards meditation has Satan tempting people through riches, honor, and pride. Christ asks us to seek poverty, obscurity, and humility. In general, these two sets of values hold true. Our Wall Street scandals are proof enough that people are still led to evil through their attraction to riches. We experience how high-profile people will sacrifice good for the sake of their own reputations. And pride shows its ugliness in everyday life, whether at home or the workplace.
We recognize poverty as a virtue only when it is chosen, not imposed—certainly it’s not a good thing for families to be destitute and their children starving. We rarely recognize obscurity as a virtue; in fact, popular culture in the United States has become almost entirely a celebrity culture to the extent that ordinary folks will put themselves through all manner of “reality”-show trauma just to be famous for awhile and get the cash prize. We do see humility as a virtue, in sharp relief to self-aggrandizement that is so unattractive.
But I don’t think we should limit evil’s temptation to these three areas. For one thing, Ignatius constructed this meditation out of his own very macho, militaristic background; he identified what to him—a man in that culture—experienced as the biggest temptations. Does a woman in Western society experience temptation in quite the same way? For many women, poverty is a trap that’s almost impossible to escape. Ongoing workplace inequalities keep women in obscurity even when they are better workers than male colleagues. And humility—rather, humiliation—is a daily experience for the way-too-many women still suffering domestic violence.
I propose that we look at other possible temptations.
- Silence: I do not speak up when something must be said, when I have wisdom that others need. I might call this humility, but really it is timidity, and I doubt that the Holy Spirit is behind it.
- Passivity: I accept what happens even though I know that a situation should be different. Maybe I call it patience, but really it is fear that God will not help me make good, if painful, change.
- Neglect of self: I pour myself out for everyone else and ignore my own soul’s cry for nourishment, comfort, and growth. I may call this holy sacrifice or service, but really it is a cruel denial of the sacred person God created me to be.
What are your greatest temptations?
What virtues draw you into life with God?