Yes, flattery can be
sinful. As stated in the Catechism of the Council of Trent...
Commandment Forbids Flattery
transgressors of this Commandment are to be numbered those fawners and
sycophants who, by flattery and insincere praise, gain the hearing and good will
of those whose favour, money, and honours they seek, calling good evil, and evil
good, as the Prophet says. Such characters David admonishes us to repel and
banish from our society. The just man, he says, shall correct me in mercy, and
shall reprove me; but let not the oil of the sinner fatten my head. This class
of persons do not, it is true, speak ill of their neighbour; but they greatly
injure him, since by praising his sins they cause him to continue in vice to the
end of his life.
Of this species
of flattery the most pernicious is that which proposes to itself for object the
injury and the ruin of others. Thus Saul, when he sought to expose David to the
sword and fury of the Philistines, in order to bring about his death, addressed
him in these soothing words: Behold my eldest daughter Merob, her will I give
thee to wife: only be a valiant man and fight the battles of the Lord. In the
same way the Jews thus insidiously addressed our Lord: Master, we know that thou
art a true speaker, and teachest the way of God in truth.
pernicious is the language addressed sometimes by friends and relations to a
person suffering with a mortal disease, and on the point of death, when they
assure him that there is no danger of dying, telling him to be of good spirits,
dissuading him from confession, as though the very thought should fill him with
melancholy, and finally withdrawing his attention from all care and thought of
the dangers which beset him in the last perilous hour."
Some other relevant
"The man who
flatters his neighbor is spreading a net under his feet." (Prov. 29:5)
"The lying tongue
is its owner's enemy, and the flattering mouth works ruin." (Prov. 26:28)
"He who rebukes a
man gets more thanks in the end than one with a flattering tongue." (Prov.
confirms sinners in their evil desires by giving them praise." (St. Augustine,
Doctor of the Church)
angling for compliments, lest you lose God's favor in exchange for people's
praise." (St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church)
"Do not therefore
covet praise which can make you a sinner; you will only collect contempt in the
end if you do. It is better to love a good person who reproves you in his
kindness." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)
"For in this way
especially does a friend differ from a flatterer: The flatterer speaks to give
pleasure, but the friend refrains from nothing, even that which causes pain."
(St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church)
rebuke should be accepted as healing remedies for vice and as conducive to good
health. From this it is clear that those who pretend to be tolerant because they
wish to flatter - those who thus fail to correct sinners - actually cause them
to suffer supreme loss and plot the destruction of that life which is their true
life." (St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church)
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