Wise vs. Wild Contrast #17: Speech
SpeechHer Speech Habits
Girl-Gone-Wild: Excessive, Duplicitous, Manipulative
Girl-Gone-Wise: Restrained, Sincere, Without Guile
Girl-Gone-Wild: “With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him.” Proverbs 7:21
Girl-Gone-Wise: “She keeps her tongue from evil and her lips from speaking guile.” 1 Peter 3:10*
Â The Sage warns his son several times about smooth-talking women. He wants to preserve him from the “smooth tongue of the adulteress”-from the woman whose speech is “smoother than oil.” (Proverbs 6:24; 5:3)
Smooth talk is conversation that sounds sweet, pleasant, and affirming but is actually slippery, deceitful, and hypocritical. It’s dishonest and insincere. It uses flattery, praise, adulation, and gentle pressure to manipulate a person into giving what the talker wants to get.Â People love to be praised and held in high esteem. They like compliments. They enjoying hearing good things said about themselves. They feel good when people stroke their egos. As a famous French author once said, “A man finds no sweeter voice in all the world than that which chants his praise.”
People are much more inclined to respond favorably to those who make them feel good about themselves. A smooth-talker takes advantage of this basic fact of human nature. Women are particularly good at sweet-talk.
We’ve all heard the old saying, “flattery will get you nowhere.” But the truth is, flattery works, and works remarkably well. Call it what you will-apple-polishing, boot-licking, back-scratching, soft-soaping, currying favor, toadying, candy-talking, buttering-up, kissing-up, managing up, or a host ofÂ other more crass termsÂ -smooth talk can and often does pay off. In the hands of someone who knows how to use it, it can be a dangerous manipulative weapon.
Just think of the salesperson who offers a prospective customer profuse compliments on how good an expensive outfit makes her look. Or the subordinate who ingratiates herself to her boss to obtain a promotion or raise. Or villains like Grima Wormtongue in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, or Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello who flatter, deceive, and manipulate their superiors. Or the woman who uses sweet talk and flattery to charm, ensnare, and control a man.Â Â Â Â
Last week, my son expressed his disgust at the behavior of a girl in his class who was in the habit of apple-polishing the professor. What bothered him most was that everyone in the class could see through her scheme. Everyone, that is, except the professor. He seemed enamored and delighted by all her effusing. Smooth talk is often obvious to everyone except its target. Have you ever seen a man taken in by the smooth talk of a deceptive woman? Did you wonder how he could be so blind to what his family and friends could clearly see?
Flattery characteristically deceives. That’s exactly what it’s supposed to do. The apostle Paul maintained that those who resort to these tactics “do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” (Romans 16:18) He and the other apostles were extremely cautious never to resort to flattery when they interacted with people. (1 Thessalonians 2:3-4) They did not want to resort to this deceptive tactic-even for a purpose as noble as furthering the gospel.
Smooth talk is deceptive talk. The Bible equates flattery with lying. (Psalm 12:2) Flattery is dishonest because it masks a hidden agenda. It lies about a person’s true intent. It glosses over the truth. AÂ smooth-talker doles out compliments and strokes a man’s ego for personal gain. She butters him up so she can “take”Â something from him. William Penn, the Quaker colonizer and founder of Pennsylvania, once said, “Avoid flatterers, for they are thieves in disguise.” A smooth-talking seductress “lies in wait like a robber.” (Proverbs 23:28)
The difference between a legitimate compliment and flattery is accuracy and motive.Â A legitimate compliment is not false, exaggerated, or motivated by self-interest. It’s simply intended to encourage and give credit where credit is due. Flattery is self-serving and insincere.Â “Sincere” implies an absence of deceit, pretense or hypocrisy, and an adherence to the simple, unembellished truth. It’s derived from the Latin “sine ceras,” which means without wax.
When artisans in ancient times made a clay pot, it would sometimes crack due to the heat. Dishonest tradesmen would disguise their inferior pots by covering the cracks and blemishes with bee’s wax before selling them. Picking out a good-quality clay pot wasn’t an easy task. On the outside, a patched-up pot would look perfect. A woman wouldn’t find out just how flawed it was until she tried using it. As soon as she poured in hot water, the wax would melt and the pot would begin leaking. Honest artisans began labeling their pottery with the words Sine Ceras, without wax. A woman who bought a Sine Ceras pot knew that the clay had no hidden faults. If there were any imperfections, the artist left them visible. To be sincere is to be genuine, honest, and authentic-without pretence or disguise.
The Girl-Gone-Wild subverts her words. She speaks with flattering lips and a double heart. She’s perfected the art of “sweet talking him into it,” and habitually uses this tact to get what she wants. The Girl-Gone-Wise does not resort to flattery. Like Lady Wisdom, she can say, “Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. Â All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.” (Proverbs 8:6-8)
Â© Mary A. Kassian
This is a pre-publication excerpt from “Girls Gone Wise in a World gone Wild,” Â© Mary A. Kassian to be published by Moody Publishers in 2010. All rights reserved. You are welcome to link to this post, but please do not copy and/or reproduce this copyrighted material without express written permission of Moody Publishing.