Flattery is something a person will say to our face but will not say behind our back. It’s insincere praise from an insincere motive. And the Bible warns us to beware of it: ‘A flattering neighbour is up to no good; he’s probably planning to take advantage of you’ (Proverbs 29:5 MSG). Solomon says that in the long run we’re better off with a person who will criticise us than a person who will flatter us. ‘He who rebukes a man will find more favour afterward than he who flatters with the tongue’ (Proverbs 28:23 NKJV). When it comes to flattery we should always keep these two things in mind: 1) Give praise sparingly but sincerely. When we praise others we should genuinely mean it, not just say it because we think it’s what they want to hear, or to make ourselves look good. 2) Receive praise wisely, without taking ourselves or the person giving the praise too seriously. When we receive praise from others we run the risk of thinking too highly of ourselves, and if we become used to the praise of others and then it’s taken away we can end up thinking too little of ourselves. Praise from others shouldn’t be a foundation for our identity, and it shouldn’t influence how we feel about ourselves or how we act. It’s God’s approval and acceptance, which we already have, that should influence us. Solomon writes: ‘The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.’ How we respond to praise, and how we choose to praise others, says a lot about our character. Let’s be people who give and take praise wisely.
Next time someone praises you, ask yourself: ‘Does this make me more big-headed or more big-hearted?’