I last wrote an article entitled “Do Not Think of Yourselves as Better” and posted it on my blog site at It was about a Nazi Officer over a concentration camp who dutifully obeyed his commanders and prepared and “perfectly” executed his “superiors'” instructions. In the end, the poem by Thomas Merton, instructs us to not think of ourselves as better because we kill with long range missiles, etc., in place of nerve gases, etc. You may read the article for more details…

In the article, I mentioned conceit, and my own confession of this sin, and the need for our nation, the United States of America, to confess this sin…. I mentioned my personal need to confess it more fully….

I hate myself for this sin… I repent, but sometimes it creeps up in my mind again now and then. I am reminded of a recent conversation with Rong Li, one of our Chinese friends, and how, as we were riding down the road I piped up trying to be funny, really, mentioning how “proud” I was of certain gifts I perceived I had… No sooner had the words escaped my mouth, and I could not call them back, I realized my mistake, just before, that is, Wink, my wife in the back seat, asked me, “Shouldn’t we let others congratulate us, and not ourselves,” or something like that… I am so sorry… Rong, please forgive me for whatever I said, I am sorry…

I think this all stems from my youth and how words of encouragement from others meant to encourage me to do well in school resulted in my thinking more highly of myself than I should have. I even remember in High School, in Study Hall, nearly the exact place that someone said to me, “John, you are conceited,” and I replied, something like, “Yes, and I am proud of it.” Trying to be funny again… It is sick, sick, and just terrible…

Those who knew me back then know that I, and our family, had little to be proud of, really… True, we had more than a “pot to pee in,” since we had an outhouse outside… After I left home in 1967, it was not too long before our family had indoor plumbing, and a TV. the TV was given to us by our local Catholic Priest… It was a free gift…. Nothing to be proud of…
Speaking of gifts, by need for continuing repentance and confession came up again recently, when I was having some tee shirts made concerning the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:

Gal 5:22-26
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.



For many years, I have prayed for these gifts to envelope me, and I feel at least some of them have been given to me as a free gift, not of my own merit, purely out of the grace of God… I feel many of these gifts have been inculcated into my life, and not just the lives of Christians only, but others too… The Holy Spirit is not just limited to giving these gifts to Christians only, and if we receive them, there is no reason to be proud… It is not just because we are “Christians,” or we have “obeyed perfectly.”



I am so vain, and I confess it, It never actually occurred to me to understand the rest of the sentence, although I must have read it over and over again, Vs. 26 “Let us not become conceited.” Our individual conceit can actually provoke others, and our conceit can cause envy… Not just personally, but Nationally, and Internationally, across the “religious” (notice the little “r” lines.) I have mentioned some of this before in writing about “American Exceptionalism,” and the recent developments of world news, but this confession is not about President Obama, or American Exceptionalism, It is about John Cooper, me…



Just because we as a Nation do it too, or all other nations do it, or President Obama does it, or perhaps even you do it, does not make my sin less… I did it. I do it. I am sorry. I confess…



Please forgive me…



John Cooper
Tuscaloosa, AL

About jcooperforpeace
Spiritual Director, Spirituality of Inner Peace

16 Responses to Conceit

  1. Nathan says:

    I really enjoyed the poem, John. (And the drum beat!) Thanks for telling me about it. Enjoyed your article too…

    Have you seen the movie Lore? Here’s the trailer:

    Might be my favorite Nazi movie I’ve ever seen. It’s about the children of a wealthy Nazi officer who are now on the run, now that their parents have been taken by the Americans.

    The only one who offers to help them? A Jewish boy. They have to overcome their parents’
    brainwashing to accept his help.

  2. jcooperforpeace says:

    Thanks Nathan,

    I liked the trailer for the movie… Do you know if it is on Netflix?

    Thanks for your comments!


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    • jcooperforpeace says:

      If you are referring to Thomas Merton’s poem, I that is an outside link… The meaning is wonderful…

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