I talk a lot about encouragement here on the blog and in real life. Encouragement is an important element of healthy community, overcoming difficulties, and the growing of our faith. It’s also something that has come up as a point of contention for me due to other’s misuse of the word encouragement for what is merely flattery.
There is a distinct difference between the two and their purpose. Encouragement’s purpose is speaking truth for the uplifting and edification of another. Flattery’s purpose is for the influencing another for self and steeped in half-truths or outright lies.
There are Five key characteristics to consider when identifying whether you have been the recipient of encouragement or flattery and also if you are giving others encouragement or flattery.
Key no. 1 – Encouragement is Genuine.
The first key to distinguishing the difference between encouragement and flattery is listening for the genuineness in the compliment you have received. There will be an overall sincerity in the words that point to a specific aspect to which the giver will attach their compliment.
See if you can identify the difference in the example sentences below:
*I appreciate the heartfelt comments you leave on my blog.*
*You are too kind and wonderful for words.*
Do you see the difference? The first sentence mentions and describes a specific action and their reaction to it. The second points to no specific point of time, action, or reaction. It is purely exaggerated pretty words.
Now, not to say the speaker isn’t sincere in their belief that you are kind and wonderful, but there is no real weight or way to measure the intent behind this kind of flattery.
Key no. 2 – Encouragement has honorable intent.
The most telling aspect of determining if you have been encouraged or flattered is revealed by the person’s intent for the affirmation or compliment. Oftentimes intent in some relationships can be difficult to distinguish and is best-determined over time.
Flattery’s motive is self-focused, but encouragement is for other’s benefit, not their own. Flattery attempts to sell you something about the compliment giver. It tries to tell you are lacking and need whatever it is they have. Encouragement enlightens and empowers one to an aspect they may not have realized they are already in possession.
I have been the recipient of several email messages that say something like, “You have such a great message on this blog…did you know that you could become an even better writer with my 7 step process…” Right away my INTENT alarm goes off and their initial statement of, “you have such a great message” is negated as I have determined they are not necessarily being authentic with their affirmation.
Conversely, I have been encouraged by other writers who sent me a message such as, “This is such a great message! I love how you are authentic and consistent with your intention on the blog. I have experience editing and would be honored to assist to help spread this important message.”
Wow! What a difference in intent and affirmation!
Key no. 3 – Encouragement is authentic.
Flattery will distort, extort and flagrantly coerce emotion to get what it wants. Charisma abused is the shyster’s tool of choice. Flattery’s end game is to charm and win approval.
Encouragement is gentle, authentic and kind truth spoken without exaggeration. It is full of hope and grace. It brings glory to God and not-self, without devaluing another. Authentic encouragement is spoken with courage and consistency even when the truth is difficult.
Authentic encouragement seeks to make another look better than themselves. It sows into the audience it is looking to edify.
Key no. 4 – Encouragement is not influenced by an audience.
Flattery compares, contrasts, and condemns if that is what will stir a large patronage. Flattery is not always just positive words toward you. It also easily becomes the tearing down of another individual, organization or initiative in order to build you up.
Encouragement is spoken even when there is not a crowd to hear it. It is just as powerful for one to hear as it would be for fifty or five thousand to witness. Encouragement is full of integrity, and never coupled with slander, scandal or hearsay.
Encouragement provides you confidence without destruction of another.
Key no. 5 – Encouragement is brimming with confidence.
Flattery is used as manipulation because there is a lack of confidence in what one believes or says. It is used when one allows fear to rule their thoughts. Fear of competition, fear of failure, fear of perceived worthlessness. The use of flattery is a devalue of one’s own potential and faith in God.
Encouragement does not need to manipulate, lie, cheat, or be anything other than itself. Encouragement is full of trust in the Lord and the promises he has given us. It confirms and exudes honor and grace. It lifts without a competitive spirit. It does not react to fear other than in response to inspire another who is experiencing the lies of fear.
There is much counterfeit inspiration in our world masquerading as encouragement, but in reality most of it’s tainted with the bloated effects of flattery. Knowing the difference will help you to be able to distinguish sincere affirmation in your relationships that you can take to heart for true inspiration. Knowing the difference also reduces your chance of mistakenly giving flattery instead of encouragement to your loved ones.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
Think of a time you have been encouraged by another.
- How did it make you feel? What was your response?
Think of a time you have been flattered by another.
- How did it make you feel? What was your response?
Are you someone who Flatters or Encourages others?