The Nature of the Flatterer and Friendship

Metamorphosis of Narcissus, Gabriel Lorden

“The ultimate dishonesty is the false appearance of honesty.”


Pleasure – The Flatterer’s Realm

Plato states that an elevated level of love for oneself is commonly excused, yet he also argues that it gives rise to an important and solemn fault [not to allude to the host of secondary faults]. A person who is infatuated with himself cannot make a neutral judgement of himself, it is simply not possible since that degree of desire for himself dirties and muddles his good sense and throws neutrality out the window. Where the flatterer is concerned, this element of self-love and desire is employed, inspiring in everyone self-deception and unawareness, so the good and bad are no longer noticeable and thus unfit to acknowledge and set right. 

The flatterer camouflages himself in friendly and pleasurable facades, the underlying motive behind it has no concrete account except that he has discerned that a true friendship does not shut out pleasure. Thus, the realm of the flatterer is pleasure and that is what he uses to lure people into his trap. The striking quality that makes the flatterer both elusive and enthralling is his pliable nature and his ability to mirror one’s attitudes, interests and desires. After all, one of the initial elements that bring people together to form a friendship is similarity and like-mindedness, so to speak, the mutual bond that is reflected between two individuals. 

The flatterer, knowing this, adapts himself according to the other person, giving the appearance of resemblance through this mirroring effect. The flatterer, then, mimics the behaviour of someone he wants to lure into his trap, and when he does, he makes the other person liable to his praise and flattery; this is a well-known facet of cunning that irresistibly and perfectly plays to people’s conceit and self-love, their lack of conscious awareness with regards to this overt flattery and its potential force is generally overlooked by the people who are targets of flattery. The flatterer has understood that where pleasure and vanity overlap, there is vulnerability, at least for most people it is thus. 

Without exception, the dawn of friendship is where reciprocal nature and character align between two people, the relationship that is generated through this similitude and affinity makes for a profound bond that is for the benefit of both people since they both value the other’s presence and temperament. Where there is similarity, there is liking and where there is liking, there are enjoyment and affection. On the other hand, the flatterer mimics this liking to win people over, not out of genuine correspondence, but by his versatile and changeable nature and ability to discern one’s character and modify himself accordingly. In other words, he makes himself an object of pleasure and desire through the renunciation of reliability and authenticity. 

The Changeable Nature of the Flatterer

We tend to hold a certain conviction towards people who readily and happily express favour or liking and only express distaste when they are pressured by exterior forces. If you know a person has previously expressed praise or approval towards you, you are more willing to allow and admit his criticism and prejudice, so long as kindliness was a precondition. Thus, it is generally the decent, fair and pleasant person who grants the flatterer and lets him into his life without heedful caution, eventually becoming a victim of his flattery. Covert flattery is a dangerous gamble; serious, under the table admiration can wreck a real friendship if not attended to with care since its intrinsic nature is identical to that of friendship. Plato states, ‘The ultimate dishonesty is the false appearance of honesty.’ The flatterer is capable of exercising false sincerity to disarm his target and build an apparently transparent relationship with his target, not through genuine bonding, but through forgery. The flatterer knows that most people value honesty and sincerity and if he can simulate that honesty to preserve his changeable nature, that will be his course of action to enter a person’s spirit. 

Similarity emotionally draws people in and when someone has entrusted the other person with a secret, the other person is more disposed to reveal a secret of his own. Once this mutual revelation has taken place, a relationship has shaped itself and with it comes a fear of betrayal. Since both parties have mutually made themselves vulnerable, or at least seeming to have, only the sincere person will feel dread and fear towards their relationship. On the other hand, the flatterer circumvents this vulnerability through the use of false sincerity, he conveys to the other person the appearance of honesty to get him to open up and reveal himself. But the flatterer does not openly put himself out there, he may give the impression that he is taking a vulnerable position or making a confession during a dialogue, yet this is imitation and not frankness. 

Through the flatterer’s powers of imitation, he penetrates your deeds, actions, habits and necessities. For this reason, the flatterer is a source of pleasure that people find captivation and hard to discern, more so because his aura clouds their judgement and the veil that he wears hypnotizes them. When one’s judgement is clouded, said person is directed by a warped perception that is misleading and grounded in deception. To compound it, when you add the pleasure connected with his presence, you are invariably put under his spell if you lack the caution and awareness to make out such a state of affairs and then to know how to act to avoid hanging out with said characters. 

In general, one could say that the flatterer has compromised his ego to preserve a formless and changeable nature that is not outwardly grounded in a mode of conduct that is constant and consistent. Although the flatterer’s duplicity does no good to anyone, it certainly deludes people into thinking they are something greater or lesser than what they actually are; often it is the former, where the flatterer is concerned. This does not exclude defects, the flatterer also imitates one’s flaws in an attempt to make the other person feel better about himself, even though his attempt in doing so makes the other person less inclined to resolve the issue at hand and engenders counterproductivity. The flatterer is a source of comfort, even when that comfort is not what is needed for your progress, he will nevertheless be there to console you and make you feel as if things are fine through mirroring, even when they’re not and his flattery is clearly having an adverse effect on your judgement.

This is how the flatterer wins people to his side, he simply appeals to their image by reflecting it back to them. Reputation is an important aspect for the flatterer, their character is such that preserving a good reputation is absolutely necessary. When an elusive flatterer has won people to his side through his proficient mimicry and imitation, sustaining a good reputation becomes easy, but only so long as his flattery does not generate doubt and suspicion among the victims. Once there is a shudder of doubt starting to permeate the air, the flatterer’s reputation is at risk. 

A Flatterer is Not Fit for Friendship 

Because the flatterer shapes and adapts himself in relation to someone else, honesty and distinction are not his agents, intricacy and duplicity are his real agents; the flatterer is continually fluttering from one domain to another and his form is determined by the vessel that admits him. [People, in general, naturally derive many of their qualities from the attitudes and styles of other people.] When Dionysius had a weakened vision, the flatterers among him would seemingly give the impression of collision and ‘accidentally’ let their plates fall during meal times. 

You see, flatterers adapt to circumstance and dance with its rhythm, but their metamorphosis is not difficult to discern, the way you do it is by giving the impression that you too are changeable, denouncing a way of life you have formerly praised or recommended and by unexpectedly involving yourself in activities and behaviour you earlier abhorred. This will make it crystal clear that the flatterer has no sense of permanence and steadfastness – his likes and aversions are not triggered by congenital sensation since he acts like a mirror, where the reflections he lets in stem from the external world. Furthermore, he is disposed towards the damaging aspects of a person; the fact he emulates contemptible conduct tells you that he keeps away from a reputation that is reproving of it and in addition, it is those people who endeavour for development that are doubted of being upset and resentful of their friends’ faults. 

It is important that you do not fail to notice a specific ploy the flatterer employs when he is emulating other people; if he does not emulate some of the good qualities of the person he is trying to flatter, he confirms that justice is on the side of the other person, not himself. A flatterer is not a friend you can share an honest relationship with, genuine friends are not opponents and there is no underlying bitterness or jealousy between them and whether one is more or less successful than the other, composure and poise prevail.

Thus, if you want to do away with the flatterer, you must be exceptionally cautious and vigilant, given that he is interwoven with the threads of friendship and similarity, that you do not abandon virtue with vice and admit the door to menace by gratifying pleasantry. In closing, Sophocles says the following about friendship; “He was born for mutual love, not mutual hatred.” A genuine friend does not emulate your every minute detail or eagerly commend all you do, but supports and upholds only the finest things that approximate goodness.

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