“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Charles Caleb Cotton
Flattery is a behavior to avoid, because according to the Word, flattery is a trap. And I have absolutely no interest in entertaining relationships with individuals who will set traps for my feet, nor do I desire to to set them for others. May we clean our mouths with hyssop of honorable speech through the power of Christ to speak that which is true in the most fitting occasion. This is love in action towards God and others.
So, what is flattery?
According to Websters, flattery is defined as insincere or excessive praise. It can be used in a variety of situations such as one with mal-intentions pursuing self-gain through bribery, or more commonly seen, an individual filling a void of acceptance by saying what another wants to hear even if it isn’t true or perhaps untimely. Beware of people who flatter, because when the occasion demands for truth, these are the ones who will often scurry away avoiding confrontation in order to maintain “peace” in the relationship.
There is nothing genuine or honorable about this behavior because it contradicts the commandment to love God (and we do this by living in truth) and to love others as we love ourselves (don’t we all want a person who will love us in truth and not deception?).
In essence, flattery is a cheap thrill providing temporary relief in order to avoid a reality. Sounds uncomfortably sinister doesn’t it, almost like a drug addiction.
So, what prompts a person to flatter another?
Easy. It’s the fear of man, fear of confrontation, the lack of integrity and courage, and an inner insecurity spurring the person to adore another in exchange for approval and acceptance. I know, because I’ve done it more than once. Avoid this behavior at all cost. These are the people who will tell you everything is okay, when it is, in fact, not. These are also the people who will turn away when they seem a harmful action in your life, but esteem you for everything else in your life. This is not truth, and this is not genuine friendship, beloved.
What does the Bible have to say about flattery?
“In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.” Proverbs 28:23 NLT
“To flatter friends is to lay a trap for their feet.” Proverbs 29:5 NLT
“Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” Proverbs 27:6 NLT
“A lying tongue hates its victims, and flattering words cause ruin.” Proverbs 26:28 NLT
“Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.” Romans 16:18 NLT
What are the potential outcomes of using flattery?
1. A wall is erected between relationships, eliminating the prospect of real intimacy. Since flattery is not rooted in truth and loving correction, but rooted in deception, the communication within the relationship becomes tainted. Any behavior that endorses deception rather than life (which is truth) will produce destruction. Be very careful of this, beloved. Do not cheapen your friendships by withholding the truth from a friend who may need to be lovingly corrected or edified in love.
“An open rebuke is better than hidden love!” Proverbs 27:5 NLT
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17 NLT
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Galatians 6:1 ESV
2. People do not rise to their full potential. When someone is constantly flattered with words (even if the intention is to excessively encourage them), a person may gain an unrealistic image of his or her abilities and fail to rise to their highest potential.
Allow me to share a personal example with you. Once I began to write for HDD in 2013, I was seeking some honest feedback regarding the quality of my writing. I knew that God had called me as an “unqualified” servant to accomplish the task of writing daily for HDD. In that moment, I wasn’t looking to have my ego stroked, but rather to be corrected. However, comment after comment continued to falsely affirm my writing ability. People didn’t want to hurt my feelings, so they withheld their true opinion, and I continued to make the same mistakes. I’m not shifting the blame nor the responsibility onto others for my personal development in writing, but rather pushing the point that by avoiding confrontation for the sake of comfort, I temporarily had an inflated view of myself and learning was delayed. Let’s speak truth in love, and mutually encourage one another as Christ has called us to do for the glory of His name.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 ESV
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV
1. Is flattery an issue in your own life? Are you a recipient or a giver? Perhaps both? If you answered yes to any of the questions, I encourage you to prayerfully evaluate the reason this exists in your life. Next, I would encourage you to repent of any sin it has caused, and ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to change your ways by speaking truth in love even when it may cause temporary hurt in a relationship. Lastly, make a list of the people to whom you have spoken flattery or received it, and ask the Lord to guide you in establishing boundaries with your words in these relationships.
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