U.S.S. Amistad

On Flattery

I’ve been pondering the wonderful pack I prowl around with. I am truly beyond blessed for all of the fiercely fantastic souls I’ve gotten and am getting to know. These connections are born out of charity and mutual interest. We put up with one another’s quirks and flaws out of love. We remind one another of our best traits when we forget just how priceless our souls are.

I spoke with a few friends on the nature of flattery and compliments and reached an interesting conclusion. It seems to be common knowledge that we all desire to be noticed for who we are. Sometimes, this becomes convoluted through the assumptions of others or a personal need to meet some externally assumed pretense. Most of my friends are rather humble, often blushing when I compliment them. If they’re capable of accepting it, there may be a softly muttered word of thanks before quickly changing topics. This conversation was not the case–most likely because I didn’t let it go.

I explained that what came across as flattery was actually a way of highlighting those things I most admired about a person. Sure, I want people to like me, but words of praise are empty when motivated by this desire. Instead, I communicate my respect for someone’s strengths or skills based on those things I wish to cultivate in myself. Take one friend, who’s a talented musician and dancer. When I complement her balletic poise and nimbleness, it’s out of respect for the years she spent developing her technique. I love ballet and I only appreciate all the more those who dedicate themselves to the art.

I’ve yet another friend whose knack for hospitality is a true art. He welcomes people into his home quite often. He rarely excludes people, even when others might turn up their noses from assumption. His company reminds me often of the way that Christ supped with those from all walks of life. Too often, it’s easy to disregard someone’s dignity for our notions of their character. We deny their worth because it makes us uncomfortable to accept things outside our assumptions. My friend underestimates the gift of his hospitality. He’s ready to open his doors and feed quite a few who enter. He’s created a home away from home for so many, and he doesn’t even know it.

Thus my impetus for “flattery,” if it must be called so.

On Charity

Charity is not just giving, but sacrifice. It comes from the Latin caritas and largely relates to love of humanity. It has a more complex connotation, depending on its context. It takes charity to maintain friendship in the best and worst of times. Sometimes it’s rather difficult to remind our friends of how great they are. It might be tiresome to hear them rag on themselves over and over. When you objectively know that the garbage of self-loathing they spew isn’t true, I can only imagine how much love and patience it takes to weather the storm of their nonsense.

Maybe you’re waiting for a friend to get their life together. They’re dating someone and the relationship is going nowhere. Or, they’re stuck in a job they could leave but they simply choose not to. I’ve been there before. And telling your friend what to do is not a good idea. Usually, it breeds resentment or provides an opportunity to misplace blame when their poor choices catch up with them. Providing unsolicited aid in a friendship is a good way to end said friendship. Sometimes, maintaining charity means having the grace to hold your tongue and let them screw up.

Manifesting the grace to maintain charity requires courage and strength. The best example I can think of is breaking up with someone and still being friends afterwards. It takes all kinds of guts to do that. When you’re in a tighter knit social circle, there’s no avoiding exes, either. The actual initiation of said breakup takes a strength and tact which mark a real man or woman of character. Personally, I respect any individual with the strength of heart to do this. And, if they manage any level of friendship afterwards, kudos to both of them. The charity in breaking up with someone comes from wisdom. It means knowing yourself enough to end a relationship. It means having the love for another to stop using each other’s purposelessly. It’s a thankless task for most, but not always. When done right, friendship is possible afterward.

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