The confessions of a recovering brown-noser

by Published: Oct 2, 2013

In my days of high school, I could soften even the most stone-hearted teach­ers with my way of words.

I didn’t care much for high school, nor did I really care what kind of mark I left in the classroom.

Nine times out of 10 I blew off most of the work until two weeks remained in the mark­ing period. Upon the real­iza­tion (or my father beat­ing me over the head) that my grades were poor, I would suck up like you wouldn’t believe.

It worked every sin­gle time. I would get exten­sions on my home­work and scrape by, much to the cha­grin of my peers and parents.

I’m cer­tainly not proud of it. I had teach­ers tell me to my face I wouldn’t amount to any­thing that way.

This worked for me all the way until the final semes­ter of my senior year.

I was in my jour­nal­ism class, and I saw a copy of “The Divine Comedy” lay­ing on a shelf col­lect­ing dust. Being the curi­ous reader I am, I picked it up and began to leaf through the book.

For those who have never read “The Divine Comedy,” bet­ter known as “Dante’s Inferno,” it is an epic poem about the 14th cen­tury Italian poet Dante, who chron­i­cles his jour­ney through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise with the guid­ance of Virgil.

As Dante jour­neys deeper into hell, more and more egre­gious life offend­ers appear. Near the end of “Inferno,” or Hell, Dante reaches a lowly group of souls grov­el­ing in excre­ment. These are the syco­phants, or suck-ups: those who used flat­tery, or as you may know them, the “BS-ers.”

I read the chap­ter over and over and com­pletely flipped my per­spec­tive on suck­ing up. According to this genius poet there is a place in Hell for peo­ple who act as I did.

When I got to col­lege, I decided this phase was over. I can still talk the talk, but now I back it up with some effort.

Brown-nosing is no way to go through life. It may get you con­nec­tions and help you in the short term, but when you get out into the harsh, cold world and real­ize you’ve used flat­tery rather than hard work to get to the top, you’re out of luck.

It’s nice to tell peo­ple what they want to hear, but once in awhile, tell them what they need to hear.

It’s never easy to tell a per­son what they need to hear, espe­cially when the truth hurts, but the truth is the truth. Honesty will get you much far­ther in the long run than “Oh hey, I love your tie,” or “Did you get a hair­cut? It looks fantastic!”

Trust this recov­er­ing suck-up; your col­lege pro­fes­sor will be far less sus­cep­ti­ble to flat­tery when your GPA is lower than the BAC you blew last weekend.

  • I want to join!

    This sounds like you could start a 10-step pro­gram for recov­er­ing suck-ups!

  • Beatrice Portinari

    I think “Sycophant” was the word you were look­ing for. Great col­umn. I applaud you for read­ing Dante, and admon­ish the fact that many can­not appre­ci­ate the exu­ber­ance and now dili­gence you project. I’d give you an A+, but I’m hop­ing you’ll work it with your shirt. After all, most brib­ing is done with sex­ual favors or money, and I’m guess­ing as a col­lege stu­dent you have lit­tle of the latter.