Sayings of the Saints
  • On Flattery
"It is better to be rebuked by a wise man, than to be deceived with flattery of fools.
               --ECCLESIASTES 7: 6

ST. BASIL remarks that vices and virtues are so alike in color that it is not always
easy to discern the difference. Prodigality, for example, has somewhat an air of
magnificence; rashness imitates, by its fits and starts, the generous impulses of
valor; hypocrisy has some outward resemblance to the exterior signs of devotion. This
it is that gives rise to the abuse of this resemblance, and that by two classes of
persons, namely, the envious and the flatterers. The flatterer takes vices for virtues,
and the envious, on the contrary, takes virtues for vices. The flatterer, to shield the
vices of the great, gives them the color of virtues, and the envious, to obscure the
luster of virtues, gives them the color of vices. If you are prodigal, the flatterer will
say that you are magnificent; if you are liberal, the envious will say that you are a
prodigal. If you are rash, the flatterer will say that you are generous and brave; if you
are really courageous, the envious will say that you are rash.

What does the flatterer mean by such false praises, but to aggrandize himself and
build up his fortune? What do the envious mean, but to destroy that of others?


NOTHING SO corrupts the heart and mind as flattery, for the flatterer's tongue does
more harm than the persecutor's sword. We are dragged downward by an evil which is
inherent within us; we feel favor ably towards those who flatter us, and although in
our reply we show, or pretend to show, that we, are unworthy of their praise, we
nevertheless receive the flattering praise with a secret joy and pleasure.

Epistle 121