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I decided years ago that people don’t compliment each other enough, so when I think something nice about someone, I like to tell them. This is very often greeted with, “Okay, what do you want?” It’s sad, but people don’t seem to trust someone who says something nice. Perhaps that’s a good thing, because that is also one of the tactics used by people who are trying to pressure you to do something or get something from you. That’s what the satraps (government officials) did to king Darius in Daniel 6, (March 28, 2011) which resulted in Daniel being thrown in the lion’s den and Darius spending the night in anguish and regret. It also resulted in the gruesome death of the flatterers and their families.

Proverbs 29:5 tells us that the flatterer spreads a net—sets a trap—for his steps. There is some ambiguity about whose steps the trap is set for, the one being flattered or the one doing the flattering. Perhaps it is both. In the story of Daniel, there were consequences for both the satraps and the king. The satraps set the trap for king Darius, but in the end, the consequences were much worse for themselves.

You need to be careful to discern whether or not someone is being honest with you, especially if you are in a position of authority over them. Employees, children, students, anyone who is in a subordinate position may not be completely honest with you, either out of fear, or because they are trying to further their own personal agenda. Likewise, you need to be vigilant that you are being honest with others. Any gain that comes from being dishonest with others will not last. The righteous will win in the end. (Proverbs 11:8, Proverbs 13:9)

There is a difference between compliments and flattery. Compliments are sincere and unselfish, while flattery is exaggerated, sometimes a complete lie, told with the intention of selfish gain. The flatterer is seeking a favour of some kind; he has only his own desires in mind. If the person is deceptive enough, it may be difficult to tell the difference, but a good clue would be what request is made thereafter. If they actually do want something from you, perhaps it is not really a compliment.