Vainglory, by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung

A friend tells me that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who post on Facebook and those who don’t. She and I are of the rarely posting ilk, and we can craft an expert and smug analysis of those who share all. See my good marriage, they boast. See my happy hour. See my long run. We can also build scathing critiques of the digital mechanisms that make others’ ap­proval so immediate and quantifiable, and of the new grammar that enables our addiction to approval: Like. Comment. Share.

There’s a third kind of person in the world, of course: folks like my husband who use no social media at all, and thus retain the ultimate bragging rights of the unbragging. But Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung would say that my friend and I, and even my husband, are as much at risk of vainglory—excessive attachment to others’ approval—as those who broadcast their eggs Benedict on Instagram.

As a Christian moral philosopher working in the classical tradition, DeYoung trains her eye less on easy targets like selfie culture and more on the reader’s soul. Vainglory is about all of us, she says, not just those who post photos of their children’s latest honor-roll report cards. Having investigated the seven deadly sins in her previous book, Glittering Vices, DeYoung now probes more deeply this most social and Christian of vices, which stalks the virtue-seeking person as much or more than one who has no longing to be good. Plumbing the works of the Desert Fathers, Augustine, and Aquinas, DeYoung suggests that this vintage vice deserves our attention not because it is particular to our time but because it is not.