Four monks took a vow of silence. When night came, one of them said, “Fix the lamps.” The second replied, “We are not supposed to speak.” The third said, “Stupid fools! Why did you talk?” The fourth said to himself in silence, “I am now the only one who has not spoken.”
At each level of escalation, there is a greater break with the spirit of the vow; the fourth monk, who alone keeps the outward appearance of silence, is actually the worst offender because he breaks his silence in the interior recesses of himself — and breaks it in order to entertain self-congratulating pride.
Therein lies the danger of legalism. There is a tendency to think that, because we keep the commandments and obey the laws of the Church, we are superior somehow to all of those sinners out there. We stand and look at the outwardly visible sins of others in the smug conviction that we are the good, the righteous, the upright. Of course, the very moment that we think this we fall into the worst of sins: spiritual pride.
– Melinda Selmys