A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.  Prov. 26:28

We all like to be praised.  We want to be liked. We all appreciate a pat on the back. But praise given with an ulterior motive or given insincerely is dangerous.  Flattery is the act of praising someone excessively from a hidden intention, usually self-interest.  Criticism from a friend is better than flattery from an enemy (Prov. 27:6).

A flattering mouth works ruin (Prov. 26:28).  Deceit is almost as old as the world and a tribute to its inventor: Satan.  Put simply, flattery is a lie.  The ruin of the flatterer is clear (Rev. 21:8). However, it is more difficult to realize the destructive nature it wreaks upon the recipient, the one flattered.  It is bait for a dangerous trap.  More effective than beating a person into submission is to enslave him by flattering him into dependence upon the praise and acceptance of others coupled with a fear of rejection and alienation.

The flattery that gets you nowhere is the kind you listen to.  It is the “food of fools” and yet we seem to be starved for it.  It isn’t a nutrition problem, it’s a heart problem.  A devious, yet successful salesman knows the way to a customer’s wallet is not in just presenting the facts, but in capturing the heart of his prey with flattery.

Some suggestions to avoid the pitfalls of flattery for both the giver and receiver:

  • Give praise.  Bold, honorable, accurate praise to those who deserve it.  Paul often commended his brethren in his letters, even those in Corinth (1 Cor. 11:2).  Perhaps if we were more gracious in our true praise, so many of us wouldn’t be as hungry and willing to accept the false praise of flattery.
  • Strengthen the heart in the knowledge of the word of God.  Nothing provides a greater defense against the subtle deceit of Satan and his forces than a strong armor fashioned from God’s truth (Eph. 6:10-18).
  • Understand whose praise, approval and judgment really matters.  In all things, what God thinks, says and determines about us is what matters (Matt. 25:34; Col. 3:22-25).
  • Be honest with others and yourself.  As children of God, we must not lie.  By speaking the truth to others, we do not endanger them and we strengthen ourselves (Eph. 4:15).  In being honest in our own self-evaluation based upon the word of God, we can withstand attacks from the enemy in whatever form they come (Rom. 12:3-8).