Baltasar Gracian should not be confused with a man who is all about love and kindness. In the 5th Maxim we begin to see the stirrings of a more cold and manipulative view of how to live life. It can be said that the purpose of this book is to help a person be a better being, live life more fully, and advance socially. The following maxim falls into that last category.
Create a Feeling of Dependence. Not he that adorns but he that adores makes a divinity. The wise man would rather see men needing him than thanking him. To keep them on the threshold of hope is diplomatic, to trust to their gratitude boorish; hope has a good memory, gratitude a bad one. More is to be got from dependence than from courtesy. He that has satisfied his thirst turns his back on the well, and the orange once sucked falls from the golden platter into the waste-basket. When dependence disappears, good behaviour goes with it as well as respect. Let it be one of the chief lessons of experience to keep hope alive without entirely satisfying it, by preserving it to make oneself always needed even by a patron on the throne. But let not silence be carried to excess lest you go wrong, nor let another’s failing grow incurable for the sake of your own advantage.
There is a common saying which tells us that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Baltasar was more of a fan of giving out the fish than teaching the skill to others. There are caveats though. Gracian warns in the final sentence, “But let not silence be carried to excess lest you go wrong, nor let another’s failing grow incurable for the sake of your own advantage.” Yes, if you want people to depend upon you, to gain their adoration through that dependence, then you must make sure you are able to provide for them consistently. Using the saying as the example, if you won’t teach the man to fish and expect him to come to you for the fish, then you better have fish for him. If you don’t, his adoration will turn to whomever does. Or he will take it upon himself to teach himself to fish.
Breaking this down into the realities of modern life, I translate this into a work setting. To me this is about being the ‘Go To Person’, the individual people want involved in projects and meetings because you have the ideas, the knowledge, the skills desired. Part of the way to become valued in this way is to make yourself a scarce resource. Do not volunteer for every project that comes down the pike, make them seek you out. Of course, you first have to prove yourself enough to gain that value and you can’t make yourself so scarce as to be unattainable. Regarding Gracian’s warning though, it is part of your duty to keep the organization healthy. Step up when you see things going awry and lend a hand. If the boat is sinking, that is not the time to wait to be asked to help bail.