Words, communication, conversation … it’s interesting to think about sometimes. That’s what I’ve got floating around my head tonight.
Psalm 12 says:
Help, LORD, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception. May the LORD cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue that says, “We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips–who is our master?”
“Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says the LORD. “I will protect them from those who malign them.” And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.
O LORD, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever. The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.
If anybody knows anything about this Psalm, please comment and let me know! I don’t know whether the ‘flattering lips’ and ‘lies to his neighbor’ refer to some sort of historical Israeli national problem–like, trouble with Israel’s bordering neighbors–or whether it is, in fact, a more personal neighbor, like one your or I might have. Or maybe it’s written from the perspective of a monarch or leader and the people surrounding him (being written by David and all). Maybe its all of the above, maybe it’s something else.
Whatever lens it might have been meant through, it makes me think of all the other verses in the Bible about a person’s tongue and speech. Gossips stir up all kinds of trouble. An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. (Proverbs 24:26). Rebuke from a friend or wise man is to be treasured. The tongue is harder to control than any other part of the body and evil (James 3:6).
And, this talk of flattery verses truth always makes me wonder about the line between speaking truth and holding your tongue and … well, polite social lies.
I’m not one to give false compliments and in my past I’ve been known to be one to bluntly state my point of view unnecessarily. I mean, growing up, my dad would make some rude remark about a person’s appearance and when we’d kids would say, “that’s not very nice” he would reply, “well, it’s the truth, isn’t it!?!”
Coming from this background, I’ve kindof always thought of flattery as polite social lies. But, upon closer inspection, I’m not sure it is. Wikipedia has an interesting article on flattery here, it defines flattery as “the act of giving excessive compliments, generally for the purpose of ingratiating oneself with the subject.”
Maybe a person who flatters is not merely telling polite social lies, but deliberately giving compliments–falsely–with the purpose to ultimately manipulate the person who is being flattered into doing some thing or not doing another thing. The whole point is for the flatterer to get their own way.
How does one discern true compliments from manipulation? Is there a difference between flattery and polite social lies? Is it really that important for you and me?
Maybe I’m on a complete rabbit trail with all this. The key must be the Lord’s words, which are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace, and protection–the Psalms begins by imploring, help LORD–but I guess I still think this Psalm is curious.
What do you think?