You Need to Know – Is it Flattery or Helpful?


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Do you know the difference between flattery and encouragement? These important 5 differences will improve your relationships.

One of my favorite things is giving and receiving encouragement. There is nothing like a good “atta baby” pat on the back.

But there’s a fine line between encouragement and flattery, so today I’m challenging myself with the question…

Are you a flatterer or a helpful encourager?

I started with a web search.

Flattery is the use of truths, half-truths or lies to secure something beneficial for ourselves.  Encouragement is the use of truth to build-up someone else.

In other words, flattery and encouragement differ in integrity and intention.  The flatterer will use whatever is needed (truth, half-truth, lies) to get what he wants.  The encourager only uses truth to build-up another person. (As Grace Extends)

Let’s flesh it out and make it personal.

5 Differences Between Flattery and Help

Do you know the difference between flattery and encouragement? These important 5 differences will improve your relationships.

1. Motive

 There is one thought behind every shallow tidbit of flattery – what’s in it for me. Selfishness is the source of flattery.

The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive. Proverbs 20:27

Questions to ask:

Am I nicer to someone when I want something from them?

Why am I being complimentary? For their benefit or mine?

2. Sincerity 

Because flattery is motivated by selfishness, flatterers are insincere.

“Flattery is a lie covered in a bed of flowery words.” ~ Deborah Smith Pegues, 30 Days to Taming Your Tongue

  • A true encourager is sincere with compliments and speaks specifically. e.g.
  • I appreciate how you ____________.
  • I like the way you ___________.
  • Your ____________ looks lovely.
  • You are very good at _______________.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father encourage you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say. God loved us, and through His grace, He gave us a good hope and encouragement that continues forever. 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17


Am I more attentive to my “rich uncle” than I am to the one who is needy?

Am I as thoughtful and kind to my family as I am to my friends?

3. Truth

Flatterers say whatever it takes (distort, exaggerate . . . lie) to charm people and win their favor.

Helpful encouragers speak the truth without exaggeration. They are gentle and kind if the truth is unflattering. They look for ways to honestly help others experience God’s courage, strength, and hope. Encouragers want God to receive glory.

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Ephesians 4:15


Do I look to see how many fans or followers a blog has before I leave a comment?

Do I encourage my children to make a greater effort to become friends with the attractive, popular kids at school?

4. Audience

Flatterers love praising others in front of a group to draw attention to themselves.

A helpful encourager speaks highly of people even when they’re not there. They do not betray, gossip, or share personal information. Someone who wants to be helpful is authentic and trustworthy. 

Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends. Psalm 15:2–3


Do I talk to people the same way I talk about them? – your neighbor, boss, coworker, etc.

Am I kind to strangers, servers, sales-people, etc. – someone you may never meet again?

5. Faith

Flatterers believe it’s up to them to manipulate people to get what they want in life.

Helpful encouragers trust God to care for them and meet their needs. They want to bless others as a grateful response to God’s love.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5–6

You Need to Know - Is it Flattery or Helpful? by Deb Wolf @ Counting My Blessings

Do I trust God to accomplish His plans and purposes in my life or do I believe I need to manipulate people to get what I want?

Do I treat someone asking me for something the way I’d want them to treat me if situations were reversed?

Well, here I go again!

I’m squirming. How about you?

You see the thing is…

I love compliments! Giving them and getting them. They are like fuel for my soul.

But I’m learning that I need to take myself out of the compliment equation. I need to check my motives, sincerity, honesty, and think about my need for an audience.

So, I’m turning to God. Asking Him to help me trust Him completely and to make me a helpful encourager.

There’s a Danish proverb that says…

“Flatterers look like friends just as wolves resemble dogs. Treachery may lurk in honeyed words.”

It’s hard to tell sometimes whether someone is a flatterer or an encourager. Often it takes time and experience to know whether a friend truly cares or is just trying to take care of themselves.

And in all honesty, we all probably do a little flattering on occasion. It’s hard to know our motives every single time.

But starting today, I want to consistently challenge myself with Paul’s dos and don’ts.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others. Philippians 2:3-4

And I will, with God’s help, remember …

Flattery is just sugar-coated manipulation and no matter how sweetly it’s presented manipulation is selfish and unloving.

People are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want. Jude 16

Helpful encouragement is love in action and love…

. . . is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

So tell me, how do you keep flattery in check in your life? How do deal with flatterers? And what’s your favorite way to be a helpful encourager in someone’s life?

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  1. This is really good and has me thinking! As someone who wants people to like me, I have to check myself in that area. I like the distinction between giving a compliment and encouraging someone. “Encouragers trust God to care for them and meet their needs. They want to bless others as a grateful response to God’s love.”

    1. I do too, Valerie! I don’t ever want to stop encouraging people it’s one of my favorite things in the world. BUT… I will work harder to check my motives and try to avoid “what’s in it for me” thinking. Thanks!!

  2. I just saw this on Pinterest and had to read it. One thing that gets me so annoyed is seeing people kiss up to popular people just bc they’re popular. But then it occurred to me while reading that I don’t know those people’s motives. So I’m changing my mindset now. I didn’t realize I was judging people. God is always refining me. I love how you’ve shown the difference between the two. I’ll be pinning!