In 1806, Betty Cotton, of Edgefield, South Carolina, was tried for murder.  She was accused of killing her third husband with an ax.  When authorities dredged the pond behind her home, they found her husband’s body bearing the wounds that a good sharp ax would make.

But that’s not all they found.

They also found her first two husbands.  One dead from poisoning and the other with a long needle stuck in his chest.

An open and shut case, right?

Think again.

Ms. Cotton was acquitted.  Eyewitnesses reported that she was so utterly charming on the witness stand that both judge and jury fell under her spell.  Shortly after she was declared not guilty, she married one of the jurors.*

Charm.  It’s one of the most powerful forces on earth.

Not only can it determine the outcome of a trial, it can cause an otherwise intelligent man to forget he’s married.  It can cause financially astute people to make terrible investments.  It can draw lonely people into ill-fated relationships.  It can even get a man with few qualifications elected President of the United States.

Call me a cynic, but people who exude charm set off alarms in my brain.  Sure, I like to be complimented as much as the next guy, but when a person really pours on the schmooze, I figure he’s up to something…something that will be good for him, but probably not for me.

Has someone new recently swept into your life…someone who seems to go out of his or her way to cater to you and make you feel wonderful?  If so, be very careful.  Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive.”

Oh, and by the way…the aforementioned Betty Cotton, who had almost certainly murdered three of her husbands, was eventually murdered herself.  By her brother.  I guess the guy who knew her best didn’t find her so charming.

*Varla Ventura, The Book of the Bizarre (San Francisco: Weiser Books, 2008), p. 115

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14 Responses to Charm

  1. Bill Lear says:

    Mark, very true. I especially like the last sentence of the third paragraph!

  2. Steve Jones says:

    Good insight. I like the presidential zinger in there too. I’ve noticed that there is a “religious version” of charm. A stranger shows up at church who is all smiles, amens, praise-the-lords, brother, sister, what-a-blessing – all the right religious lingo. But often there is no substance to back up the jargon. They plop in, splash around for a while, and then are gone as suddenly as they came, on to the next congregation. Call me a cynic but my spidey-sense starts tingling as soon as I meet one of these “charmers” and they start they’re schtick.

    • Mark says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more, Steve. I’ve seen it a thousand times. I’d like to add something, but you said it all.

  3. Andrew says:

    I don’t believe Jesus would have promoted this kind of cynicism. His message was about love and not having a critical spirit. Love involves risk. That means your probably going to get burned more than once. But that’s what is supposed to make us different as Christians… Despite the risk we love.
    Romans 14:13

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Andrew. I think I’d have to respectfully disagree to some extent. Jesus actually was pretty cynical about the “falseness” of the Pharisees. Remember some of the names he called them? He also warned us about wolves in sheep’s clothing. I think Jesus would agree that we should beware of the “schmoozer” who comes on strong with his charm, but may have ulterior motives. Obviously, we should accept people at face value until we have reason to doubt them. To that extent I agree with you. But 40 years of experience has taught me that when people pour on the charm, something isn’t right.

      • Andrew says:

        I don’t recall the Pharisee’s being known for their charm.
        I think that your comment about 40 years of experience is a good example of how the devil works away at us all. Slowly eroding our spirit. Sad really.
        Thanks for your blog. I do enjoy it.

        • Mark says:

          Wow, Andrew, your comment about my years of experience and how I am an example of how Satan erodes people’s spirits seems harsh and unnecessarily judgmental. And all because I believe the Bible’s admonition that “Charm is deceptive?” (Pr. 31:30) Or the Bible’s warning that people are “seduced with pretty speech and enticed with flattery”? (Pr. 7:21) Or Jude’s warning that people would “flatter others to get what they want”? (Jude 1:16) Even David asked God to protect him from people whose “tongues are filled with flattery.” (Psalm 5:9) I agree with you that we should give people the benefit of the doubt. But a charm offensive, i.e. flattering speech will always raise red flags with me. Based on the Scriptures mentioned above, and many others, I think every Christian should be wary of excessive charm.

          • Andrew says:

            No, no, no. I apologize without reservation. That’s not how I meant that – as a personal attack on you. I wasn’t commenting on you specifically. I’ll leave it at that before my foot gets any further down my throat.

  4. Bob Malkemes says:

    Hmm- sleeping with one eye open for next few days– thanks Mark!!

  5. Kathy Wennlund says:

    Thanks Mark. I totally agree with these remarks! This is one of your best blogs ever and no, I’m not trying to be charming, just realistic!!

  6. Rosan says:

    Have to agree with you there Mark, and I’m not pre judging anyone, but experience has taught me well. Thanks for the back up scriptures as well.

  7. Danny says:

    Really liked this one Mark. Specially the part of the president….wink.

  8. Jeanette Harold says:

    Mark, I think you hit the nail on the head. Your third paragraph is a good illustration of a person telling another only things he perceives they want to hear (charming) and not things they should hear. I think Jesus taught reality; that it would be difficult to follow his teachings and didn’t sugar coated it.

    I do think a little “charm” is charming, when I think about the many social events I have attended over the years and how nice it was to meet a charming host/hostess. However, a little bit goes a long way. To be overly charming is to risk losing credibility.

    Great blog — sure got me to thinking. (not meant to be “charming”, rather realist.

  9. setechi Eli says:

    Thanks Pastor Mark. I think the essence of your blog is not just to look out for charmers but to also be weary of being charmers ourselves. For us not just to look out for flatterers but to stop flattering others. In any case, why should a Christian indeed even flatter (insincere compliments)? However, not all “charms” has ill motive, like your blogs are always charming in my eyes, yet they are principle centered.

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