Perhaps I am the only person who struggles with this, but i tend to think this is a pretty common issue:
I like it when people say nice things about me.
It makes me feel good about myself, and it makes me think that maybe I am doing something well. Sometimes people tell me I'm a good soccer coach. Sometimes they tell me I'm a good preacher. Sometimes people tell me I made a nice golf shot. Some people have told me I'm a fast runner. Once someone said I had above average intelligence.
These things make me happy.
I don't even realize that sometimes these people aren't telling me things for my own good. They may not even believe them, but they know I will. They're saying nice things about me because they have an agenda, or because they want something from me.
A few years ago I was reflecting on my week and realized that on three separate occasions, I had been paid compliments by people that initially made me feel very good about myself... then i started wondering if those compliments were truly sincere.
- One person told me what a great job I was doing in a particular area.
- One person referred to the positive influence I had on someone they knew.
- One person told me what a great fit I was for an upcoming project.
Later, it struck me that each of these instances had given me an opportunity to feed the monster that lies within me
i regularly point to the concepts of pride and autonomy as the root cause of virtually all sin. thus that which feeds my pride and autonomy is feeding my "sin monster"
... and then I realized that likely none of these people really believed what they were saying. They were flattering me.
Flattery is defined as "excessive or insincere praise."
Flattery is a powerful tool which causes us to gain a false view of ourselves and those around us, and if not recognized, will typically lead us into temptation by feeding our pride and distorting our view of reality and truth.
Flattery is manipulative. It is something we all do when we want to gain an ally or a partner. It is not something we do when we want to gain a friend.
By the way, this observation isn't original with me. Proverbs 29:5 says:
Whoever flatters his neighbor
is spreading a net for his feet.
I've noticed a disturbing trend among many people who find it "appropriate" to use flattery as a tool for gaining influence, winning friends, gathering "buy-in", achieving promotions, etc... Sometimes this methodology is even encouraged and honored. I find it particularly disturbing when I sense that I am flattering someone in order to get them to see things my way. Ahh, the darkness that resides in us all.
No wonder Proverbs 28:23 says:
He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor
than he who has a flattering tongue.
Eve fell prey to a flattering tongue. The serpent tickled her ears with ideas of being god-like. He fed her monster by suggesting she was being treated unfairly, that someone with her gifts and abilities certainly deserved more privilege and responsibility than God was giving her.
His flattery distorted her perception of reality and truth.
This is what I must remember when I find myself flattering someone. I have become the serpent. I am appealing to their pride and autonomy so that they will do something to benefit me. In reality, I have become the tempter. I've become the serpent. I've led my neighbor into the wrath of God.