- excessive and insincere praise, especially that given to further one’s own interests.
Flattery is poison. But some poisons are more lethal than others.
My mother once told me the most dangerous kind of flatterer, is the one who flatters who he wants you to be, not who you are.
“He’ll take one little piece of you and pinpoint it,” she said, “He’s not lying. It is there. It is a part of you, but it’s not all of you. It’s a tiny part that serves him best. Then he’ll flatter it and glorify it and remind you of it as often as possible, because he wants you to think that is all that you are.”
From what little I know, I know my mother knows more than I do. And from what little I’ve seen, I’ve seen that she is correct.
The man who desperately wants to run away with a girl, to have an affair with her, to do anything that only a man who wishes for a girl to rebel against her own heart and home would do, he will flatter her free spirit. He will praise her boldness. Anything she does that is pushing the limits of convention, that is creative or progressive, he will respond to these things with kisses that taste like honey and words that warm her insides. But her softer thoughts, her love of safety, her want to place discernment over frivolity, he never praises that.
The man who wants nothing but her submission, nothing but a passive girl who will let him rule in a rigid home, he will praise only her sweetness, the way she sits quietly when she reads a good book, the way she smiles politely when other girls get angry or frustrated. When she does these things he will make her feel wanted. He will make her feel “good enough”. But he never encourages her passion, the fight in her eyes, the sharp resilience of her backbone.
Well to the flatterer, don’t bother with me. Don’t act as though my wilder nights define me simply because that is the definition that suits you best. I may forget tomorrow by moonlight and chase after stars, but I will still have ambition beyond the thrill of a moment. I will still have discipline beyond my desires.
And don’t glorify me in my best Sunday dress when it is rigid and still untouched by windy afternoons. My heart is steadfast but the rest of me is always in motion. So don’t act as though I am best when I follow every rule and it is an unfortunate fluke when I go against the grain. If you don’t like me barefoot, you don’t like me at all. If you prefer I never let my hair down, I prefer you go away.
You may flatter my eyes
the freckles on my nose
anything superficial enough that I might have enough silliness or vanity or insecurities to listen for awhile,
But flatter any fragment of my soul and you’ve already lost.
I watched the grownups play that game as a child.
I learned the rules before you even asked me to play.