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Affirming is distinct from flattery:

A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin. (Prov. 26:28)

A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet. (Prov. 29:25)

That’s the Bible, and it’s echoed in secular statements like: “Flattery corrupts both the receiver and the giver” and “Flattery feeds the pride of both parties.” 

What is flattery? Like other corruptions, it starts out rooted in a good thing, but ends up putting a corrupt twist on that good thing

While affirmation commends virtues, flattery exaggerates them, glosses over flaws, offers excessive input, and is insincere, not chiefly interested in building up the recipient in Christlikeness, but interested chiefly in obtaining some kind of direct favor. Healthy affirmation does not exaggerate or schmooze. Having affirmed, the affirmer can walk away with no expectation of receiving anything from the recipient. A good affirmer, just as the giver of a cup of cold water, looks to God for his reward.

In contrast, there is a thread of seduction in flattery. The flatterer is after something from the flattered. While affirmation is a free gift with no strings attached and trusts God to bring about whatever good harvest he wishes to bring from the seed planted, flattery is a bribe, and a direct return is expected–soon.

Godly affirmation approves of Christlikeness and disapproves of anything contrary, whereas the flatterer approves anything–Christlike or not–that may achieve the desired response.

~Sam Crabtree in Practicing Affirmation

Photo: OBMonkey

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