“Sir, you seem like a man with a look of professionalism and authority.” That was the first time I heard such great words spoken about me. And it certainly felt great. Then the man went on: “You surely deserve to be recognized and acknowledged for the person you are.”
For a moment I basked in that great euphoria. I always wondered when people would begin to realize and acknowledge how “awesome” I am. But as the conversation went on, I began to realize that those great words of praise were just carefully devised words of flattery. He was simply trying to get me to join his multi-level marketing team.
The great words of praise directed towards me seemed to take on a new image as he began explaining how I would be on the road to wealth and affluence if I just attend one of their meetings. When I was hit by the sudden shift of emotions, I realized the potential danger in flattery. The psalmist said “For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongues” (Psalm 5:9).
Nothing new. People have always recognized the inner desire for acceptance and honor. In every society, people have longed for such acceptance. This longing has been leveraged by business people, marketers, politicians, and by many who want to influence others.
So if the need for acceptance and recognition is universal, then what’s the problem with flattery? Why not use it for our own desired results? It would seem that nature has designed it so.
There is a place for praise and acknowledging one’s accomplishments. Indeed we are to recognize others and encourage the good in them. But the problem with flattery is the purpose. The above verse says “their throat is an open grave.” This implies a selfish purpose. When words of praise are spoken solely for the purpose of benefiting the one who speaks, it becomes dangerous flattery.
Now I remember with amusement my experience of being the recipient of flattery. How fragile our emotions are and how easily we can be influenced!
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