“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.