The Flattery Trap
Recently I received a spate of e-mails from sources who supposedly were eager to publish my writing. According to one message, mine is a talent too deep and capacious to continue to languish in obscurity.
I have been writing for publication for over thirty-five years and have being doing editorial work for almost as long. I know when something along these lines smells fishy. And these inquiries had about them the odor of a giant tuna left in the summer sun for three weeks with a Ferris-wheel-size mass of limburger cheese lashed to it.
My suspicions where confirmed after wading through three or four hip-deep, fertilizer-fit paragraphs whereupon the communiqué informed me that—in their zeal for sharing my genius with a wider audience—the publishers were willing to accept any manuscript I might send them, so long as it was accompanied by my personal check to help defray marketing expenses. Since my work was comparable to that of the very best of Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Tolstoy, and Twain, they were sure that subsequent royalty checks I would receive would dwarf my initial, modest “author’s investment.”
After a millisecond of prayer and fasting, I decided this was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” I could happily pass up on multiple occasions. Nonetheless, whoever sent this stuff has some sense of the weaknesses of human nature. Few things can leave us more vulnerable to ruinous decisions than artful appeals to our vanity, especially when linked to areas in which we harbor insecurities.
As the book of Proverbs points out, “Flattery is nothing less than setting a trap” (29:5 CEV). Many of the steel-jawed traps that threaten to chomp down, wound, and undo us are baited with enticements that touch on our unfulfilled hopes and personal anxieties.
That’s why people are lured by the lottery and other express-lane-to-riches pipe dreams (the longing to escape financial worries) or extramarital affairs (the desire to dull doubts about attractiveness). We can become so thirsty for angst reduction and affirmation that we will put our heads through the opening of a guillotine in order to sip an ephemeral drop of ego elixir shimmering on the other side.
One of the easiest ways to lead us astray is to offer us a buttery flattery tart that hints at sating our longing to be recognized and appreciated. That’s why it’s wise to beware when we sense ourselves feeling excessively gratified and pumped up, especially on the heels of feeling deflated. Danger lies therein. Let us test the spirits and make sure we aren’t stepping into a trap apt to sever both of our limbs at the hips.
The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Church of God Ministries or, at points, even the writer, but are written with tongue firmly planted in cheek to hopefully provoke a leavening bit of laughter and a smidgen of thought.