“Another deterrent to humility”, Ramchal offers (and it’s the final one at
that), “is becoming friends with flatterers”, people who “steal your heart
away with their praise” -- individuals we’d refer to today as “yes-men”. For
what they do at bottom is “exaggerate your good points, and then praise you
unjustifiably, too”. In fact, he adds, “sometimes the very thing they
commend you for is what you shouldn’t be praised for at all”.
But why would any sensitive, honest soul ever sidle up to such people,
knowing how fallacious they are? Because (as Ramchal reports quite
tellingly) at bottom, “human intelligence is actually quite weak, and human
nature is gullible and easily swayed-- especially when it comes to something
it just naturally leans towards”, like hearing glowing reports about one’s
own achievements. That being so, “when you hear those sorts of things being
said about you by someone you trust, a certain poison enters you, and you
fall into the trap of arrogance and are captured.”
In fact, “this sort of thing is clearly so in the case of most kings, lords,
and people of stature”. For, “no matter where they stand spiritually, they
still stumble and suffer ruination” because of their association with these
sorts of people.
So we should be even “more cautious … about the sort of people we’d want to
befriend”, he suggests, than we might be of the sorts of things we’d eat or
drink. For, while “food or drink could only harm one’s body, bad friends and
associates can ruin one’s very soul”.
It’s best to befriend “honest people who will open your eyes to things
you’re blind to, and reproach you (when that’s called for) lovingly”. Good
friends like that “will save you from harm”, since “they would warn you
about harm (that may come your way) and protect you” from any spiritual
damage that could come to you.