Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: SLANDER (09/07/17)
- TITLE: In Sheep's Clothing
By Kathleen Muldoon
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As I waited in line to pick up a prescription, I noticed Lindsey* standing near the front of the line. I’d lived in our neighborhood a short time, but already this young lady had attracted my attention. While each morning other blue jean-clad teens paraded past my house in clusters on the way to school toting trendy backpacks and the girls swishing long, bouncy hair, Lindsey walked alone. She carried her books loosely, as well as a small paper bag which I assumed held her lunch. She wore simple, matronly clothes that seemed appropriate for her plain, short hairdo. Yet she exuded a quality of innocence that made her appear to have stepped off a Victorian Valentine.
At church, I had inquired about this girl to a neighbor who told me that Lindsey lived with her grandmother in a home at the end of our block. Evidently the woman was a hoarder who, my neighbor suspected, had problems with the house’s indoor plumbing as often my neighbor had seen Lindsey trying to wash her hair and brush her teeth in the backyard using a garden hose.
After Lindsey picked up a prescription, she started past the drugstore’s old-fashioned soda fountain. Seated on the stools were three young ladies, one of whom spun around and faced Lindsey.
“Omg, I love your sweater, Lindsey,” she gushed. “Didn’t I see that in the window of Old Navy?”
Lindsey shrugged and half-smiled as she pulled the old red cardigan closer to her and left. No sooner had the door closed behind her than all three girls burst into giggles.
“Do you believe her?” said one. “Like that piece of crud she’s wearing would be in ANY store! I hear she lives in filth.”
“Stay away from her,” said another with a laugh. “She’s crawling with lice and who knows what all.”
While their laughter followed them out the door, my thoughts turned to my current Bible study on Proverbs, many of which deal with the sin of slander. Certainly these young ladies had slandered Lindsey after she left the store by uttering lies about her in public. But what about the “flattery” to Lindsey’s face? Could it be that sometimes flattery can become a form of slander?
My initial research for an answer to that question showed “flattery” as an antonym to “slander.” But then I turned up an intriguing quote by Napoleon Bonaparte: “He who knows how to flatter also knows how to slander.” Many Christian websites have articles pairing flattery and slander as sins of the tongue. I remember in Shakespeare’s “Othello” the scene in which Iago flatters Othello to gain his trust and later uses that same flattery to disguise his slander of Cassio and Desdemona.
So, it seems to me, flattery can be “slander in sheep’s clothing.” Proverbs 26:28 tells us that “a lying tongue hates those it hurts and a flattering mouth works ruin.” (NIV) Preacher George P. Wood has written that “If flattery is dishonest praise, then slander is dishonest criticism.” Hmmm. Other than the dictionary definitions of slander being untrue words uttered publicly against a person not present and flattery being said to a person directly, it seems that slander and insincere flattery are closely related--indeed, are often sins committed consecutively to the detriment and ruin of the same person.
Alexander Pushkin summed up this ungainly relationship between slander and flattery in his poem “Exegi Monumentum”: “Fearing no insult, asking for no crown, receive with indifference both flattery and slander, and do not argue with a fool.”
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