Are you aware of the difference between “flattering” and “caring”? It’s an important gift, if you understand its consequences, and an important lesson if you don’t!

I believe flattering to be our most powerful drug and greatest addiction. Flattering can be more powerful than morphine, alcohol or other tangible substances we put into our physiology. The subtle consequences can be more damaging and dangerous, too.

Our culture conditions us to flatter each other as a normal social behavioral response. We start learning from an early age that by showering false praise on others, both friends and acquaintances, is the path to popularity, friendship and success. It’s prevalent in our schools, churches and social institutions. I’d go as far as saying that we have even deluded ourselves into believing that this behavior is a primary path to success and even necessary if we want to obtain the favor from our God.

So what is flattering and why is it so dangerous and why haven’t I heard more about these contingencies? Why is it so detrimental for me to be carrying on this way?

It all starts with our belief system. Each one of us builds up a belief system from the early stages of our life. Social norms require us to constantly monitor and adjust our beliefs to conform to the standards we set up in our society. There are more formal standards that we establish with our parents and elder decision makers and less formal standards with our siblings and peers.

When we step out of line in any of these social settings, we get immediate feedback that alerts us to adjust. We immediately receive some message alerting us to adjust or conform. If we don’t heed this communication, we risk becoming subject to a more intense message or rejection from our group.

It’s amazing how quickly we learn to adapt and adjust to the subtle social messages.

When we flatter, we send a false message to someone. Perhaps we are trying to go out of our way to rescue them from life’s lessons, or have some other motive in mind. Perhaps we are just too tired to take the time to explain our feelings, or don’t have the courage or conviction to say what we really mean. Perhaps we tell someone they did a great job, when they didn’t and reinforce their decision to perform at a less than optimal level.

Regardless of the reason, we deliver false feedback!

We tend to justify flattering because it means saying something good about someone that isn’t so true. How bad can it be telling a spoiled child how special they are? Even worse, we find ourselves flattering because we hope by showering praises on someone else, they will in turn shower us with similar unjustified praises we are craving. Flattering can even come in the form of bribery … as a way to use other’s addiction to manipulate and get something that wouldn’t be granted otherwise.

If you are insecure and require flattering to feel worthwhile, you become a target for disingenuous praise with invisible strings attached. You broadcast yourself to prey with other self-esteem deficiencies that possess the radar for detecting you. They learn how to raise your confidence and reduce your uncertainty in ways designed to enhance their welfare, not yours. The worst however, is that they invite you into their network of problems and deceptions and you become a part of their reality. In other words, once you invite them in, they begin to entangle you into their conscious reality.

Over time, flattering is dangerous because it supports an unrealistic perception in the mind of the flattered. It gives them feedback that isn’t true. It allows them to construct a false reality about themselves that isn’t beneficial or helpful in their life. It stunts their growth and progress.

It short, flattering builds up the ego. It can become a pattern and a way to extract or negotiate love and manage emotions. It binds us to the dangerous delusion of thinking we are really on the path of positive growth and evolution. Flattering has nothing to do with caring, truth or true love.

To awaken from the dangers of flattering requires a radical re-adjustment of your psyche.

When you care for someone, the actual action isn’t as important as the attitude that you have for them.

Caring is a sober response to a genuine need. It is not just an emotional response. It arises out of a pure unalloyed love; a response to unwavering truth. It is selfless and not preoccupied with the benefits that may accrue to the “carer” or giver. It comes from a pure heart that is habitually attuned to one’s wholeness, self-respect and to that of others.

Caring maintains an independence of spirit while flexible in meeting the exigencies of daily life.

It is devotion to the truth.

Caring is true love.