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Is flattery sinful?

 

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Yes, flattery can be sinful. As stated in the Catechism of the Council of Trent...

"This [Eighth] Commandment Forbids Flattery

Among the 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.

Still more 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 quotations...

"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. 28:23)

"Flattery confirms sinners in their evil desires by giving them praise." (St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church)

"Beware of 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)

"Reprimand and 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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