A person who will not bend after many warnings
will suddenly be broken beyond repair.
A person who flatters his neighbor
is spreading a net for him to step into. (Proverbs 29:1, 5 GW)
(Context—Proverbs 29:1-17 GW)
The old cartoon series, Lil’ Abner, featured a character who could deliver a double-whammy hex by looking at someone with both his evil eyes. But the term was popularized many years before by others with less evil intentions. The phrase is used by most people to describe a detrimental and powerful impact of some kind.
In weather, a combination of two dangerous events like a cluster of tornadoes and excessive flooding could be considered a double-whammy. The combination of increased inflation and higher unemployment would be an economic double-whammy.
A double-whammy in sports could be a one-two punch combination in boxing or when a baseball pitcher intentionally walks a good hitter only to give up a grand-slam homer to the next batter.
These two selected verses in Proverbs 29 shows us a double-whammy of sorts. The double dilemma of stubbornness and flattery. The whammy-effect of being stubborn is a little easier to see than the deceptive trap of flattery.
Some double-whammies happen to us. But others we bring on ourselves. These verses speak of the latter—what we bring upon ourselves.
The danger of stubbornness
Stubbornness isn’t just being strong-willed. A strong-willed person can learn to turn what others see as stubbornness into perseverance.
One example is the life of POW Louis Zamperini, as told in the book, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. There’s also a movie adapted from the book but the book is much better.
Louis’ life story—as detailed in the book—portrays a man who moves from delinquency to an Olympian runner, then through a grueling internment in a WW II Japanese POW camp, and the ups and downs of post-war life to a fulfilling and redemptive life.
It’s a great insight to how stubbornness can become perseverance but can also be destructive.
A person who will not bend after many warnings will eventually be broken beyond repair. Another Bible version describes this person as “stiff-necked.” This is a person who resists correction and warning, including rebukes, for their attitude and behavior that harm or impact others.
The idea of a repeat-offender in and out of jail may come to mind but this also applies to a person who offends others but refuses to make amends or apologize to anyone. It could even apply to someone who refuses to heed medical advice and warnings to their own detriment.
Natural consequences will take their toll at some point leading to a loss of freedom, broken relationships, poor health, a psychological breakdown, or death.
God will mercifully try to intervene in the life of a stubborn or stiff-necked person but will not stop those bent on self-destruction when they refuse His merciful corrections and interventions.
The flattery trap
And how about flattery? How could this be the other side of a double-whammy?
The destructive impact of flattery can go two ways. It can be a snare for those who are deceived by someone’s smooth talk and it can equally bring a reversal of an intended deception.
Flattery can be used in an insincere, deceptive way to intentionally trap someone at their own expense and for the flatter’s profit. But the trap laid to ensnare a person can also become a pit to fall into by the one who flatters.
We also need to guard our own heart from the self-deception of believing someone’s flattery, whether it’s insincere or excessive praise.
On one hand, when we take to heart flattering words we create a snare of pride for ourselves. When we only want to hear and accept the praise of others while shunning any criticism, we set ourselves up for a fall.
When we flatter others for our own benefit, people will begin to realize this about us and not take what we say seriously—whether it’s flattery or not. People will see us as dishonest, prideful, and unreliable.
Avoiding this double-whammy
How can we avoid the pitfalls of self-destructive stubbornness and the deceptiveness of flattery? Two simple things come to mind—honesty and humility.
We need to be honest with ourselves and willing to hear the honesty of others—especially from people who are trustworthy.
Humility is the only real antidote for pride and conceit. Genuine humility can help us guard our hearts from self-destructive attitudes and behaviors, as well as the deceptiveness of flattery.
We can avoid the pitfalls of self-destructive stubbornness and the deceptiveness of flattery when we’re willing to be honest with ourselves and accept honesty and pursue genuine humility, the only real antidote for pride and conceit.
Do you identify with either the stubborn person or someone prone to flatter or listen to flattery? Pray for discernment and wisdom. Ask God to show you how to humble yourself and be open to the truth.
Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?