“A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” (Proverbs 26:28)
Flattery is excessive and insincere praise given to further one’s own interest. This is important to understand because on the surface, flattery often looks like kind, encouraging, uplifting words. But because of the motive that it stems from, it is actually destructive in nature–it is used to manipulate. It is giving of something in order to take. It creates a sense of obligation.
Flattery is a perfect example of hypocrisy. It comes dressed as kindness, maybe smoothly and often eloquently spoken, but with an ulterior motive or expectation. It is not sincerely offered, like genuine encouragement, but it is instead a trade…compliments in exchange for something.
Flattery appeals to our flesh because it satisfies a need for encouragement, affirmation, or just general kindness. It can make us feel seen, known, or understood. It can create a sense of value and recognition. But because flattery is not genuine, these things you feel or sense are actually illusions rather than reality and can do much damage to your soul because they create confusion.
For a narcissistic abuser, flattery is a very common tool. It is used to facilitate quick trust. It endears them to many. It creates an illusion of a kind person, one who sees and cares. It can be used as a part of mirroring, flattering in regards to the very things/areas that the abuser knows are of high value to the victim.
Scripture contains many verses that describe the motive and affect of flattery. Here are two:
“For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.” (Psalms 5:9)
“A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.” (Proverbs 29:5)
Flattery is a means of snaring and destroying. That sounds pretty extreme, and may not fully be the intent of the one who utilizes it, but the bottom line is that flattery cannot be used for a good thing. So as we learn to differentiate between flattery and true encouragement, we can navigate relationships with wisdom, clarity, and healthy boundaries.
It is critical to be discerning, to learn to differentiate between flattery and true encouragement. We must be careful not to just hear and process the words spoken to us, but we must learn to discern the heart/motive behind them. And while we obviously can’t always know someone’s specific motive, we can heed the check in our spirit that is the Holy Spirit letting us know that something is off. We can recognize the presence of manipulative tactics. We can be slow to embrace and receive words. We can proceed with caution and wait until we see fruit.
If you are in a relationship with someone and you recognize the presence/use of flattery, it is ok for you to be cautious and guarded. This is not unloving, this is wisdom.
Another way to shore ourselves up against this destructive tool, is to continue to pursue healing in areas of pain and woundedness. To look for affirmation from the Lord so that we are not desperate for it elsewhere. As we grow in health and wholeness, we are less vulnerable to the tactics of a narcissist, including flattery.
Click the button below to go to a sermon that I preached called The Snare of Flattery. It elaborates more on what makes us vulnerable to flattery and concludes with a prayer and ministry time. I hope it is an encouragement to you and that you can receive whatever clarity and healing is needed!