You know what flattery means? I don’t mean to be condescending nor am I attempting to insult anyone. I believe there are many words out there, floating in our lexicon and some of those words have been heavily diluted, not to say misused. We think we know the exact definition and then we look at a dictionary and a little surprise emerges, or a few emerge out of nowhere. Isn’t this another reason to stay up to date and keep studying any language we speak? I am losing my train of thought and the point of this text.

I thought I knew what flattery was. It turns out, much to my dismay, I was mistaken, half mistaken to be correct. I thought flattery meant “to give someone a compliment”, which it does. However, according to Webster’s dictionary, there are two definitions. The first one is “showing or expressing gratifying respect or admiration”. I believe this to be the definition that is most commonly used, meaning that is how most people understand flattery. The second definition and the most important to me is “excessively or insincerely complimentary”.

I didn’t know the second definition. I always believed flattery had only a good connotation, so to speak. The “excessively or insincerely complimentary” caught my eye and a ring went off in my head, a tremendously loud noise rocked my brain. After the initial mental shock, I came to terms with a feeling that I have always held: I am slightly suspicious of compliments. By that I mean, receiving them. It makes me uncomfortable. I blush and I look like a tomato, I look down, I utter a “thank you” shyly, I cannot wait for that awkward moment to end.

I surely do not have a problem complimenting others. Let’s just say that my love for words and writing gives me a certain advantage when the time comes to distribute compliments. Yet, a compliment must be earned. I don’t do it for the heck of it as I don’t have time to be a kiss-ass. Please do not get the wrong idea about how I use compliments. I do believe in complimenting people when they do something positive, when they look good, when I like them, when I love them, when they are dear to my heart. But…No insincere compliments, no second definition of flattery! Never!!! Why lie? I’d rather shut up.

Back to my suspicions towards receiving compliments. I had to sit down and pause for a moment. I wanted to collect my thoughts as much as I could. The thought process took every ounce of self awareness I have in my bones, it took every single drop of honesty towards myself. I was lucky enough to arrive at the right conclusion.

I am suspicious of compliments because I am afraid they might make me complacent. I am afraid self satisfaction might push me to not work hard at maintaining whatever qualities I possess naturally. Let’s face it: some people have certain abilities they might be born with and that their environment strengthens, whether the abilities are used for good or bad. I believe for example, we are all born with a certain degree of kindness that varies from one person to another, but, at birth, the variation is barely noticeable. Then, enters the environment. If you are nice and you grow up in a bad environment, one that doesn’t reward niceness, then you might become less nice and vice versa. I do admit being one of those people who believes qualities can turn to dust if they are not taken care of and strengthened. That is just who I am and how I see the world.


Therefore, I am slightly suspicious of compliments. Perhaps, if I hear them often enough, I am afraid I might be self satisfied with myself and let my guard down. That is where my suspicion lies. I don’t want to become complacent. I don’t believe in doing anything to get accolades from people. I believe in doing whatever you want because your heart tells you so, not because you will get a nod or because there will be a place waiting for you in heaven, as if heaven is a sure thing. I do what I do because my heart and mind tell me to and because it makes me feel good, I won’t lie. I am selfish. Nevertheless, I will admit without any shame that a compliment, every now and then, makes my heart skip a beat, especially if the compliment is coming from someone I love, respect, and care about.

Please understand. I am not advocating to never give compliments. I would never do that. We are all different in our way of dealing with people. What I am trying desperately to say is…perhaps giving compliments all the time, when someone did nothing to earn them, when the situation doesn’t require it, perhaps then and only then, people might feel entitled and we might inflate their ego for no reason. Perhaps by flattering people all the time, compliments might lose their intrinsic value and become obsolete. Perhaps flattery should be used in specific occasions, perhaps not. I will leave that decision to each person of course, since this is a free world and we all have free will. That said, a little true genuine compliment can go a long way for the messenger and even more for the recipient. Trust me, it could very well illuminate someone’s cloudy day or uplift someone’s spirit. This was my “insecurity” laid out or allow me to rephrase, my personal view on compliments. Yeah, that sounds better!

Just one man’s opinion.

Now, smile, give a genuine compliment to someone and go on with your day.

Freeman. B

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