This year in my daily quiet time I’m going through a few Tim Keller devotionals. One of them is on the Proverbs and the other is on the Psalms. I’m going through them daily and journaling my way through the Psalms and Proverbs. I’m always challenged by Keller’s insights, so it’s been encouraging and challenging to get a double dose of Keller every day this year.
A few days ago, I read these two Proverbs in the devotional:
Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear (Proverbs 25:12). Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue (Proverbs 28:23).
Immediately I found myself convicted by both verses, especially Proverbs 28:23. As someone who struggles with being a people-pleaser, I know I can sometimes flatter with my tongue. I love to encourage others, but sometimes I know I flatter so that I’ll be liked by others.
Why Do We Flatter?
For those of you familiar with the enneagram, I am a Type 2 Helper. I love helping others which happens to be a great gift to have as a pastor. But sometimes I crave the approval and praise of man even more than I desire to help others or honor God. I want to be liked and praised, and these desires can lead me to have a “flattering tongue” instead of sharing a needed rebuke or admonishment.
Do I flatter others simply to get favors and approval? As I think through this question and these Proverbs, I became disgusted by my sin. I shared with my community group guys and confessed my need for help in this area of my life. I so desperately crave the approval of man that I will at times either lie or shade the truth so others will like me.
Some of Us have a Different Problem
Some of you don’t have this problem at all. You speak the truth at all times and have no trouble wounding or rebuking others. You don’t seek the approval of others and you have no trouble calling out sin in others. No one will accuse you of flattery.
But while you rebuke like a champ, you might lack grace and tact in your rebuke. Perhaps you carelessly rebuke others without concern of how it will be received and how to best walk alongside others who are on the receiving end of your rebuke. You may have spoken truth, but you lack care and grace.
Neither approach works. Whether you flatter to gain approval or mow others over with your rebuking words, most of us need to grow in our ability to speak the truth in love.
Take a minute and think through how this plays out in your life. Which way do you tend to lean? Flattering for the praise of man or careless rebuke?
- How does this affect your spouse/significant other?
- How does it play out with your children, parents, and siblings?
- What about your co-workers and community?
If you don’t know which way you lean, ask your spouse or closest friend. Let them know you’d like to grow in the ways you care for others through your words. Ask them to give you an honest assessment of which way you lean.
Over the last few days I’ve thought through how this plays out in my life.
- Sometimes I’m afraid to challenge co-workers or leaders I work with.
- Other times I don’t want to disappoint or frustrate my wife or kids so I hold back.
- When I lead others in ministry, I can hold back my observations because I so badly want others to like me.
I do not want to be a flatterer. I do not want to just “tickle itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3) and tell people what they want to hear. Candidly I’m disgusted by my sin, that I would elevate the approval of man over speaking the truth, largely because I so badly want others to like me. I’m asking God and my community to help grow me in this part of my life. When we do this right, it will be like an ornament of fine gold (Proverbs 25:12).
How about you? Which way do you lean? How can God and His people help you grow so that you’re not a flatterer but a gracious, caring, truth teller?
Don’t just blame it on your personality, family of origin, or Enneagram Type. Rather, choose to become more like Christ, speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
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