In 1998, I taught at a writers conference in Philadelphia. A woman, I remembered only as Agnes, befriended me. We had several delightful conversations, and she attended all my workshops.
Six months later, I spoke at a conference in Southern California and Agnes was a conferee. She all-but avoided me. That perplexed me until I figured it out.
In Philadelphia, I had given Agnes many suggestions on improving and selling her manuscripts and suggested three different editors who might be interested. She no longer needed my help, so why bother with me?
After that experience, I started noticing the Agnes types who flattered me with attention. I like interacting with others, but a few don’t really care about me—they want what they perceive I can do for them. How to get a publisher for their manuscript. Entice me to endorse their book. Edit their book for free. Nothing wrong with wanting my help. They need only to ask and I can say yes or no.
I find it troubling that they approach in the guise of friendship and shower me with attention and affirmation. But underneath, as the saying goes, they want to use me.
The hidden agenda troubles me. Perhaps it’s because I’m an upfront person, and I try not to play games with people.
I wish I could add that I’m always straightforward and without guile. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it. Almost daily I think of the incident where Jesus first meets Nathaniel, who became one of the 12 apostles. Jesus’ first words were, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” (John 1:47 NKJV). Another translation reads, “a man of complete integrity.”
I can think of nothing I’d rather hear than for someone to say to me or about me that I’m guileless.