Flattery Gets You Somewhere

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

  • James 3:5-6

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For,

“Whoever would love life
    and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
    and their lips from deceitful speech.
They must turn from evil and do good;
    they must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
    and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

  • 1 Peter 3:9-16

“A well-known speaker recently defined flattery as ‘something said to a man’s face you would never say behind his back.’ Many top schools of management actually endorse well-placed flattery to get yourself ahead. For example, they suggest complimenting your manager to people you know will pass it along to her, or intentionally expressing values similar to your manager’s in a meeting she is sure to attend.

“So when does fanning your flame for success turn into deception? Proverbs 20 warns that bread obtained by falsehood is sweet at first, but will eventually turn to gravel. Psalm 36 says deceitful words are a plot for trouble. If you buy into the popular idea that doing whatever it takes to get ahead isn’t so bad, think again. Among those uninvited into God’s presence in Revelation are people practicing fraud, but Proverbs 12 says truthful lips and those who deal faithfully are God’s delight.”

  • Presidential Prayer Team Devotion

The first paragraph of the devotion quote brings back such bad memories.  I once lamented, when the boss was out of town, that I was the world’s worst when it came to office politics.  I felt that my lack of monetary and promotion success would bear that out.  One of the most accomplished flatterers in the group argued that I was far from the best judge of my abilities to perform office politics.  Indeed, I was the master.  Everyone in the department worked on my projects, in a way.  Everyone else got promoted, but when it came to winning productive ideas, the boss listened to my suggestions and then, a few days later, came up with the same idea, totally on his own, and assigned a team of people to do what I had thought … Excuse me, what he had thought of, having totally forgotten it was my idea and everyone in the department was there, at the meeting, when I said it first.

I often thought about being honest with the boss, but when everyone was praising the boss and flattering him, the best I could think of was “Well, you are not as big of an idiot as everyone says you are when your back is turned.”  I never said it.  My best attempt at flattery was keeping my mouth shut.

I saw how others were getting ahead, but the best I could do was to be respectful to the boss.  I always thought about how I must keep my tongue from evil and my lips from deceitful speech as the 1 Peter Scripture says above.  Don’t get me wrong.  My tongue and my lips got me in plenty of trouble over the years, but I only came close to disrespecting the boss once, on purpose.

During a summer when our engineering battalion was overloaded on construction projects, I was a platoon leader, company executive officer, and full-time acting company commander, all at the same time.  The company commander was ‘around’, but no one knew where he was hiding.  So I performed his busy work for him, answered all phone calls, and attended all meetings.  (This led to the GERD that I still have today.)  Upon one of his appearances, he berated me in front of the men for choosing mission over a non-essential pet project (designed to make the company commander look good – busy work that was to be done after the summer construction season was over – He wanted it in lieu of the summer mission critical work.).  I blew my chance at vain flattery by ensuring our company would finish first, but I kept the projects running.  After the company commander finished berating me, he turned on the men under me and said something that would cause them to lose money (loss of per diem) and work longer hours.  He then dove inside his office door and locked it.  Something inside me snapped.  You could berate me in front of the men who worked for me, but don’t take it out on them.  A sergeant first class, the company’s operations sergeant, saw the look in my eyes and he jumped in front of me, hugging me, saying that it wasn’t worth it, preventing me from giving the commander a piece of my mind.  I never said a word to my ‘boss,’ but the words came to mind.

I remember an old Peanuts cartoon strip.  In one pain, Lucy is being teased by people that you do not see.  In the next pain, she turns and quotes, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  In the last pain, Lucy is bowled over by the people, off screen, throwing sticks and stones.

When we write posts, we need to remember that words do hurt.  Both Scriptures above talk about that.  When we are in a crowd, there will be someone who disagrees with us.  We need to be able to keep a civil tongue.  And when someone purposefully goads us, trying to elicit a negative response, we need to know when to walk away.  I hope I can learn that last one.  As the old sergeant would say, “Sir, it’s just not worth it.”

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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