Definition of SYCOPHANCY
: obsequious flattery; also : the character or behavior of a sycophant

Definition of SYCOPHANT

: a servile self-seeking flatterer


: preservation of oneself from destruction or harm
: a natural or instinctive tendency to act so as to preserve one's own existence

There is a thin line between being sycophantic and seeking self-preservation.

Sometimes, we say what people want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. We believe - perhaps correctly, perhaps incorrectly - that it serves both parties' interest if the whole truth is withheld. And so, it becomes a cloak-and-shadow game, where half-truths are bandied about and a little fawning goes a long way.

Sometimes, to survive, we need to be sycophantic, to suck up to our immediate superiors and pander to their whims. Buy chocolates to thank them for their 'guidance', write cards professing geysers of gratitude. Sing odes to their greatness.

What would one do, to attain that coveted promotion, prestige or position of power? What depths would one resort to? How much sacrifice is worth it? And is it even a sacrifice? Perhaps it's just a transaction? Of giving someone power over oneself in order to obtain power in turn?

What would you do? How much would you give up, trade away and hand over?

Maybe, it's easier not to survive. It takes a great deal of effort to swallow one's pride, to trample on years of teaching on what's right (and wrong), to flatter and fawn over superiors. If being sycophantic is what it takes to survive, then maybe, just maybe, it's difficult for one to preserve oneself from destruction.

Some may choose to break - rather than to bend - to the undercurrents of influence fluxing around them.

But there's a genetic compulsion to survive, honed over millenniums of struggle against other animals as well as elemental forces. We are here, reading these words on these screens, because our genetic ancestors have managed to duplicate themselves even when they were merely micro-organisms wriggling in a primordial soup.

Hence, we can only conclude with the truism that there must be a balance in everything we do. To hum sweet words when there is a need, to stand up for our beliefs if necessary. To have the wisdom to know when to be sycophantic and when not to, and to what extent in each context.

As usual, there are no easy solutions or ready answers.

Source credit: National Geographic