Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Light-mindedness (levity)

The monk who instead of concentrating on himself looks curiously at others, trying to judge who is his superior and who is his inferior, will see things to envy in others and things to mock.  Thus it is that the light-minded follow their roving eyes and, no longer pinned down by proper responsibility, are now swept up to the heights by pride, now cast down into the depths by foolish envy.  Now the man is consumed by foolish envy; now he grows childishly pleased about his own excellence.  In one mood he is wicked, in the other vain.  In both he shows himself to be proud, because he makes it a matter for self-congratulation both when he grieves to be outdone and when he is pleased to outdo others.  He displays these changes of mood in his speech: Now his words are few and grudging; now numerous and trivial; now he is laughing; now he is depressed; but there is never any reason for his mood.  Compare if you will these two stages of pride [i.e., this and curiosity] with the last two steps of humility [namely, restrained speech and containment of one's interests] and see whether the last does not quell pride and the last but one light-mindedness.  You will find that the same is true for the rest, if you compare one with another.


  1. I always valued levity--defined here and by myself as the ability to change dynamically from situation to situation.

  2. "Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."

    Levity in St. Bernard is distinct from the adaptability St. Paul is speaking above in the above quote. Adaptability has to do with having a proper disposition in every context, ordering your responses and attitudes correctly. This is a definite virtue. Levity, though, is a kind of frivolity of response, that ultimately shows imprudence, lack of self-control, and self-centeredness.