A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.
A friend does something nice for someone. It is posted on social media for the world to see. The “likes” abound. The flattery rains down. The person doing the nice deed is covered in praise and adoration. At first glance there seems to be nothing wrong with this, right? Or is there? Are we actively laying a net for our friend?
What is the difference between encouragement, praise, and flattery? Is there really anything wrong with publicly praising a friend? Possibly.
There is a secret part within us that craves approval. We want to be known, loved, and accepted. Social media intensifies this craving by feeding us likes and tangible approvals. It tells us we are loved, valued, accepted. We are cool, not different. We fit in, we are popular. When the likes pile up, we feel validated and accepted. We are given fake food for our soul. Our giftedness is displayed and recognized.
When we post praises in the form of flattery to another, we are actively laying the net for our friend. And in some cases, we are laying a trap for ourselves. In some cases, we aren’t truly praising out of the goodness of our heart. Rather, there is something hiding in our own hearts that finds its way out in an attempt to cover what is hiding in our hearts.
When I am on the brink of posting a public flattering praise of another, I must ask myself what my real motive is. Am I seeking attention for my own self by showing the world my goodness in encouraging the good in another? This might sound harsh, but upon examination of the deception in each of our hearts, we may be surprised at what we find hiding.
At times we use social media flattery to gain the approval and affection of the person in some way. I believe we do this not realizing it’s what we are doing.
Sometimes it’s our jealousy that drives us to publicly flatter a person. It covers our hidden jealousy and makes us appear better on the outside than we feel on the inside. If I’m stepping on your toes, I’m sorry. Everything I’m writing, I’ve done myself. I’m not writing in judgement. I’m writing from conviction. The Lord recently opened my eyes to what I was doing when I flattered friends and family rather than seek to encourage them.
At times we subconsciously praise another online because that is what we ourselves want. We desire the public affirmation and accolades. So we do what we want. We are in some way enticing others to praise us back.
Again, I’m writing out of the conviction of the Holy Spirit in my own life. Recently, I posted on Instagram and Facebook this happy birthday post to my husband. It was full of flattery words and sentiments. I meant every word. I don’t believe I held impure motives. However, did I not lay a net for him? Did I not feed the part within him that could crave more and more the attention and approval of others? Possibly.
A friend sent me a beautiful gift. I posted her praise as I boasted of my gift. What was my motive in that? Is there a motive in hiding? A hidden sin? Possibly.
Psalm 12: 1-3
Help, Lord, for no faithful one remains; the loyal have disappeared from the human race. They lie to one another; they speak with flattering lips and deceptive hearts. May the LORD cut off all flattering lips and the tongue that speaks boastfully.
When you read the definitions of flattery, it doesn’t leave a good feeling. Notice in definition 5 the use of the flattery – to get something from the other. Or in definition 1 to try to please. The use of flattery is usually manipulation in hiding or an attempt to gain favor or approval.
Satan takes what is good and twists it into something he can use. That is what he’s done with the rampant social media petting of others.
Social media praise, excessive praise of another, and petting and coddling of a friend’s goodness, generosity, and kindness is not encouragement. It is flattery. The Bible warns us of flattery and flatterers.
The most loving thing we can do for that friend is to refuse to flatter them and feed an appetite within them that craves the applause of man and leads to a life driven by the fear of man rather than the fear of God.
20 They[a] watched closely and sent spies who pretended to be righteous,[b] so they could catch Him in what He said,[c] to hand Him over to the governor’s rule and authority. 21 They questioned Him, “Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You don’t show partiality,[d] but teach truthfully the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
23 But detecting their craftiness, He said to them,[e] 24 “Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?”
“Caesar’s,” they said.
25 “Well then,” He told them, “give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
Please notice the use of flattery here. “Teacher, we know you speak and teach correctly and you don’t show partiality.” They came with an agenda, they began with flattery. Flattery was used to attempt to disarm Jesus. To make Him less effective. Jesus recognized their use of flattery as a means of manipulating Him into giving an answer that would trap Him.
You see flattery clouds our senses. Its perfumed words cover the intention in hiding. I’d go so far as to say the majority of us flattering others on social media aren’t even aware of our hidden agendas when we display this. But the Lord will reveal if you ask Him. He will poke and poke.
Romans 16:18 “for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words.”
The spirit of flattery should be ripped to shreds. It’s a most powerful secret weapon of satan and my desire is to bring into light what is hiding in the darkness. The trap we are laying for our friends and the trap we are walking into ourselves.
Here’s where I have wrestled through this. One of my spiritual gifts is encouragement. How do I know the difference between encouragement and flattery? Along the same lines, another gift I have is discernment. There is a fine line between being discerning and judgemental. Similarly, there is a fine line between being a flatterer and an encourager.
Here’s a great article on the difference between encouragement and flattery.
Scripture on flattery:
1 Thessalonians 2:5-6 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.
Romans 16:17-18 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 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.
Psalm 12:2 They speak falsehood to one another; With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.
Proverbs 7:21-23 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, Until an arrow pierces through his liver; As a bird hastens to the snare, So he does not know that it will cost him his life.
I’m not suggesting we stop using kind words to build up our friends. Flattery is not simply kind words that build another up. Encouragement builds, flattery breaks.
Proverbs 16:4 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Sharing a kind word is offering a sweet gift. But a kind word shared in secret may protect our friend more than a public display of affection that starts a chain reaction.
Sharing a word of encouragement is crucial to the body. We should never stop building up others. But we must test our motives and our methods. Are we speaking the truth for the benefit and good of our friend with nothing to gain or advantage for ourselves? If so, we should encourage away. If there is the slightest twinge that we are flattering rather than encouraging, we should stop, pray, and seek the wisdom of the Lord.