Dangerous Flattery

The Holy Fathers of the Church counsel us not to seek adulation. They tell us to ignore both flattery and insults. If we listen to flattery it leads to pride, and we can become quite spiritually blind in our prideful state. 

A person who is lionized is in a perilous situation. He becomes accustomed to flattery and praise and whenever it fades he will do what he can to rekindle it. He begins to base his words and actions on public opinion in order to maintain his popularity. Soon he is a slave to his flatterers and his own morals begin to be riddled with holes. He departs from the narrow path that leads to Christ and begins to walk the wide highway of sin because there is more room for his followers.  

Even holy saints of our Church who were able to perform miracles sought to avoid praise by whatever means necessary, even to the extent of concealing their identities. Here is a story from the life of Abba Longinus:

“10. A woman had an illness they call cancer of the breast; she had heard of Abba Longinus and wanted to meet him. Now he lived at the ninth milestone from Alexandria. As the woman was looking for him, the blessed man happened to be collecting wood beside the sea. When she met him, she said to him, “Abba, where does Abba Longinus, the servant of God live?” not knowing that it was he. He said, “Why are you looking for that old imposter? Do not go to see him, for he is a deceiver. What is the matter with you?” The woman showed him where she was suffering. He made the sign of the cross over the sore and sent her away saying, “Go, and God will heal you, for Longinus cannot help you at all.” The woman went away confident in this saying, and she was healed on the spot. Later, telling others what had happened and mentioning the distinctive marks of the old man, she learned that it was Abba Longinus himself.”

Many people find themselves popular by virtue of their appearance, talents, eloquence, or even spiritual gifts. Because they are admired and people watch and listen to them, they are more in danger of temptation by the evil one. Think: if the evil one can lead such a person astray, he has an excellent chance of leading countless of his followers astray as well. 

Examining this from a different perspective, you can see why excessive praise of anyone, but particularly someone in the public eye, is a harmful to them. We should always be measured in our praise of anyone, as well as seeking to avoid praise ourselves. 

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