I used to think people liked compliments and so I gave compliments. And it was true. People liked them. But the older I’ve become and perhaps the more healthy I’ve become, the more I’ve realized my compliments weren’t given in actual kindness.
I’d have to say, without knowing it, I really just used compliments in order to make myself more likeable.
Flattery is less evil than, say, stabbing somebody in the eye, but it’s not to be confused with true altruism. And what people really need is true kindness.
When you read about Jesus in the Bible, He rarely if ever flatters anybody. Instead, He speaks truth into their lives not only with His words but with His actions. He rebukes and corrects, but mostly Jesus honors the value of individuals by serving them. Jesus feeds them, teaches them, washes their feet and contributes to their happiness (wine at a wedding).
Flattery is fairly easy, but truly believing in the remarkable beauty of the people around us is something more. It’s not that it’s harder, because it isn’t. What it is is a paradigm shift. When we flatter somebody, it’s still about us. We are saying something nice in order to be perceived as a nice person. But when our hearts get changed by God and we see the people around us as His works of art and HIs kids, a love for them pours out of us. We are delighted at every person even as we are amazed at works of art on a wall at a museum.
When you get into an elevator with strangers, do you wish you could just hit the stop button and get to know each of them? I truly know people like that, and they are some of my favorite people. I think people who interact with others like this are a little bit like God. I think God shines through them and when others are around them, it’s as though they begin to grow the way a tree does in the sun. Flattery has a short battery life, but reminding people they are amazing and precious and wanted and works of art can truly change their lives.
I want to be a little more like this. I want the people around me to grow, to flourish, in part, because a truth is shining through me that is giving them life.
I don’t think God flatters anybody. I think He simply finds people to be amazing. I think He delights in His creation. I think we should too.