Which do you prefer to receive; Flattery or Constructive Criticism? Honestly, I like to receive flattery more than criticism even if it is constructive. Yet I really need constructive criticism and not flattery.
To flatter means to compliment someone not to simply praise something good in them or that they’ve done, but in order to gain something for yourself. So personal gain motivates the flatterer not building the other up in love. In fact, some definitions of flattery include gaining an advantage for oneself.
So let us think about the impact of flattery. The one flattered receives an inflated, unrealistic self-view. This may make them vulnerable to further requests or demands of the one flattering. The flatterer has engaged in a form of deception. They offer a “compliment” but with some sort of string attached. They hope their flattery will lead to some advantage, gain or benefit in the future.
Proverbs 29:5 states – “Those who flatter their neighbors are spreading nets for their feet.” This claims that flattering somehow sets a trap for us. We think flattery is a pathway to getting what we want. However, such deception will one day catch up with us. Maybe the flattered person finally discovers that we were not interested in their gain but our own. Or maybe we practice flattery so much that people no longer believe our words even when we’re sincere.”
On top of that, God despises flattering lips. Psalm 12:2-4 – “Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. May the Lord cut off all flattering lip, the tongue that makes great boasts, those who say, ‘With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?’”
We need to offer and receive the alternatives – honest encouragement and constructive criticism. We need the Lord and others to help challenge our unrealistic self-view.
Some of us have a very negative and condemning view of our selves. We need others to offer God-centered affirmation. We need others to remind us of who we are in Christ and how God views us. We are His adopted kids (Galatians 4:4) purchased by the blood of His Son and coheirs (Galatians 4:5) with the Son. God rejoices over us (Zephaniah 3:17) and deeply loves us (1 John 3:1).
All of us need others to help us see ourselves as we really are. That’s the role of constructive criticism. The constructive critic looks to build the person up – to construct them. Nevertheless, as in any home renovation project, you need to expose and tear down the old to make way for the new.
Yet we can be so sensitive to any criticism that we refuse any feedback even the loving, constructive kind. If someone has marshalled the courage and effort to offer us constructive criticism, we dare not defensively dismiss it. “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted but an enemy multiples kisses.” (Proverbs 27:5-6).
We also need to grow in learning how to offer constructive criticism to one another. If we see something in a friend that needs to be addressed and try to ignore it because we don’t want to hurt them, we could actually be hurting them more. One author says, “If you are afraid to say what needs to be said, you are an enemy to your friend’s soul.”
“Lord, this can be a tough personal area. But we don’t want our doctors to flatter us about our physical health. We want to know the truth so we can get deal with it and get physically well. So help us to learn to give and receive constructive criticism for the health of our souls. Thank you for being an honest encourager and constructive critic through your Word.”