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The Complement of Flattery
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Written by: C. W. Booth

You Only Flatter Those Whom You Hate

You only flatter those whom you hate or wish to abuse. By way of contrast, compliments go to those you love because you desire to encourage them to excel.


To Compliment or Flatter

Flattery is unlike a compliment in almost every respect except in its candy-coated outward appearance. A compliment is an expression of genuine appreciation or praise. It honestly assesses the value of a thing well done and assigns a commensurate amount of respect and honor. A compliment is given to allow the conferee to be encouraged to continue to strive to engage in high value efforts.

A man will be praised according to his insight (Proverbs 12:8a)

Flattery may superficially sound like a compliment, but it is a sinister poisonous imposter that has a pleasant taste to make it easier to swallow. Flattery has the sound of praise in its words, but it is a fraud.

Most any dictionary will define flattery as insincere praise that is undeserved or far in excess of what is proper for the circumstances. Moreover, flattery is intentionally conferred not to improve or encourage the recipient, but to manipulate that one to fall under the charms and desires of the flatterer. The flatterer seeks to gain his own advantage, to win control, to implement his ulterior motive via his lying lips.

These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. (Jude 1:16)

There is nothing reliable in what they say; Their inward part is destruction itself. Their throat is an open grave; They flatter with their tongue. (Psalms 5:9)

They speak falsehood to one another; with flattering lips and with a double heart they speak. May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, The tongue that speaks great things; (Psalms 12:2-3)


To Love or Hate

When someone offers a timely and appropriate compliment the goal is bestow good on another person, to benefit them and to encourage excellent behavior on their part. To do good to another person is to love them (1 Corinthians 12).

On the other hand, to flatter another person is to attempt to bend them to do what you desire them to do. Just as flattery is the tool of the manipulator, lies are what power the tool. Flattery is always a lie. Flattery deceives the recipient by obscuring the speakerís intentions with exaggerated praise that is unearned or beyond valid reason. Flattery is insincerity designed to coerce someone to do something for the good of flatterer.

He who hates disguises it with his lips, But he lays up deceit in his heart. When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, For there are seven abominations in his heart. Though his hatred covers itself with guile, His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly. He who digs a pit will fall into it, And he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him. A lying tongue hates those it crushes, And a flattering mouth works ruin. (Proverbs 26:24-28)

A man who flatters his neighbor Is spreading a net [trap] for his steps. (Proverbs 29:5)

The use of lies to get oneís own selfish way at the expense of someone else is the very definition of hatred. You only flatter those you hate. Those whom are flattered are led into a ruinous trap of service to the flatter.


Flattery is Manipulative Selfishness

Scriptures are very harsh toward those who seek their own pleasures and interests above those of their neighbors or spiritual brothers. Selfish persons are slaves to their own appetites and they use flattery to seek to enslave others to satisfy their self-interests.

For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. (Romans 16:18)

Sin itself is personified in the Psalms as a flatterer that deceives the sinful heart into thinking that all his sins are secret. In short, the sinnerís heart falls prey to his own flatteries and deadly deceptions. There is no good in flattery.

Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; There is no fear of God before his eyes. For it flatters him in his own eyes Concerning the discovery of his iniquity and the hatred of it. The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; He has ceased to be wise and to do good. (Psalms 36:1-3)

At times in Israelís history those who were self-styled prophets attempted to garner the favor of the people and kings by delivering fake prophecies that God did not speak. These fraudulent prophecies flattered the people by using the name of the Lord to call them righteous and blessed even though the people were not righteous. All this was done in an attempt to get the people to give the flattering and deceptive prophets money, food, and housing.

"For there will no longer be any false vision or flattering divination within the house of Israel. "For I the LORD will speak, and whatever word I speak will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, for in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it," declares the Lord GOD.'" (Ezekiel 12:24-25)


Flirtation and Seduction are Born from Flattery

A significant element of flattery is flirtatious seduction. Many flatterers desire to use delicious lies to win the sexual favors of those upon whom they lavish their indecently excessive compliments. Flattering someone of the opposite sex is flirtation.

Many a man has fallen to such a mendacity as, "Youíre just the strongest and most handsome man," while too many women have succumbed to the exaggeration, "Youíre far prettier than my present wife and much better at understanding me." The man who casually addresses most any woman with, "Hey beautiful," is likely exposing his flirtatious and flattering heart and places the reliability of all his speech into jeopardy.

With her many persuasions she entices him; With her flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her As an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, (Proverbs 7:21-22)

To deliver you from the strange woman, From the adulteress who flatters with her words; (Proverbs 2:16)

There is nothing reliable in what they say; Their inward part is destruction itself. Their throat is an open grave; They flatter with their tongue. (Psalms 5:9)


Love Speaks Only Truth

Many times we are admonished in the Word to speak only truth. The truth is love. Often it is a tough love which calls out to a person that they are a sinner and must repent. Yet it is love because it is done only for the benefit of the other person, only for their good. Wisdom and truth are holy siblings just as flattery and deceit are evil twins.

He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor Than he who flatters with the tongue. (Proverbs 28:23)

Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," And call understanding your intimate friend; That they may keep you from an adulteress, From the foreigner who flatters with her words. (Proverbs 7:4-5)

"Let me now be partial to no one, Nor flatter any man. "For I do not know how to flatter, Else my Maker would soon take me away. (Job 32:21-22, spoken by the young prophet Elihu)

As Christians none of our speech should be flattery and all of it must be truth. Flattery is a pretext to greedy solicitation and should not find its way into the Christianís speech nor be a part of evangelism.

For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed--God is witness-- nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. (1 Thessalonians 2:3-6)


What This Means to the Contemporary Christian

Whatever words come out of a Christianís mouth must be sincere and true. They must be intentionally crafted to benefit someone else and not to satisfy our own selfish desires. Our speech must encourage others to do good and to be holy. What we say must never be designed to cause others to be ingratiated to us but to Christ.

Christians ought to adopt the following patterns of discernment.

When speaking:

When being spoken to:

Just as truth complements love, so dishonesty and insincerity complement flattery. Flattery and selfishness are hunting companions that feed off the capture and ruin of others.

Flattery is hatred concealed behind insincere gracious-sounding speech. Flattery is deception motivated by selfishness and leads to the ruin of the hearer. Love and truth benefit the hearer and are superior to flattery and deception in every possible way. We must always and only speak the truth to the edification of all around us so that they may serve and praise God.

A lying tongue hates those it crushes, And a flattering mouth works ruin. (Proverbs 26:28)

Öbut love edifies. (1 Corinthians 8:1b)

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