An injustice occurs daily on social media, in the break room at the office, within church congregations, and among gathered friends called flattery.  The public exaggerated or elevated statement of someone’s character, abilities, giftedness, or performance that is beyond the truth.  Gossip and flattery are cousins, but they’re not the same.  Gossip is saying something about someone behind their back that would never be said to their face.  Flattery is something said about someone in public that would never be said about someone in private.  While this type of thing has become extremely popular in our public lives on social media, it’s a true injustice to the person that’s being praised.

Flattery Is Cheating

If you’re trying to gain ground in the business world or in friendship circles, flattery is a broken road.  It’s like using personal growth hormones to grow muscles.  You may indeed bulk up, but it’s not natural.  In the end, you may also discover that those shortcuts could do damage to organs and in attempt to get bigger, you may shorten your life in the process.  The same dangers occur in the flattery game.  Using exaggerated compliments of people who don’t deserve it in order to seek advancement is not only an dishonest method, it’s dangerous.

What happens if you’re caught?  What happens if your methods are discovered?  What will your business career look like at that point?  What will that do to your friends?  What will that do within your church community?  Flattery may seem like a good way to get ahead, but in the end – it’s just another broken road to avoid in this short life.  Honesty is always better!  Christians never want to be aligned with false teachers and methods of the unconverted as mentioned in Romans 16:18 – “For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”

Guard your words, your likes on Facebook, your retweets on Twitter, and your motives.  Using flattery to gain friends, to gain promotions, or to politically maneuver within the church is sinful.

Flattery Harms People

It’s one thing to give a well deserved compliment, but it’s something different to be guilty of a flattering tongue.  A compliment helps, but flattery harms.  John Flavel once stated, “It is a dangerous crisis when a proud heart meets with flattering lips.”  How many times have you witnessed people use flattery on social media as they give excessive praise to a person’s character on their birthday, Father’s Day, or even worse – at a funeral service?

For those on social media who read one thing but see something quite different, it sends a very confusing message.  For those receiving such exaggerated praise, they don’t deserve it, and what they need more than anything is someone to be honest with them.  We live in a day where honesty is a rarity and where plastic lives are the new normal.  In short, flattery is a positive lie about someone who needs the truth.

I’m not suggesting that we should look for ways to call out people’s shortcomings on social media for the world to see.  I would actually suggest the exact opposite.  What I’m suggesting is that we refrain from showering people with undue applause when we can give them a dose of honest love and kindness in public and when necessary – the truth in private.  Don’t feed a dark heart flattering words.  It will not help them practically or spiritually.

We should all work diligently – especially within the church – to avoid being a backslapping flatterer.