Compliments = Lies?

I’m training a new guy at work. Yesterday I said that “You are certainly doing a better job than I did when I first started.” I don’t know that. We probably did the same, but the book How to Win Friends and Influence People says that complimenting people is a lot better for motivation than punishing people when they do stuff wrong.

Are “white lies” such as what I said sinful? I can’t believe I forgot about this incident when I received the Eucharist today. All I hope is that this lie wasn’t mortal. I didn’t really intend to deceive him, all I wanted to do was help him feel welcome.

This is just my opinion, but this sounds like a case of scrupulosity. I would recommend you talk to your pastor.

But to answer you question, I would say not even a sin as your intention was not too deceive him correct? From what I can tell your intention was to motivate the worker and boast his morale, which is nice because most people are nervous on the first day anyways.


What makes you think complimenting an employee to help him feel welcome is grave matter?

(Grave matter is required to commit mortal sin. If the matter is not serious, it cannot be mortal sin.)

I’ll third the opinion that it wasn’t sinful at all…

This is the way I look at it. If the lie is to benefit the other person I think it is ok. If it is to benefit you, then, no, it probably is not. Saying you like someone’s new outfit/car/haircut when you don’t is ok. Lying about have a previous engagement as an excuse not to attend someone’s invitation is wrong.

I think your comment was ok because you are just trying to build a work relationship - it’s a positive thing, not negative. Good not bad will result.

You can give compliments without lying. There is no need to lie.

You need to talk to your pastor about your inability to distinguish sins from not-sins, and mortal from venial sins. This is a REAL problem, and bringing everything you do to CAF is not helping you at all.

IMHO, it is wrong to lie, although some lies may not be as serious as others. If you tell a lie, it may hurt your credibility.

If everyone told the absolute, unmitigated truth that would be lack of tact and diplomacy. Saying what you said was not necessarily a lie. Maybe he did do better than you did when you first started.

I remember being absolutely ruthless when telling someone what I thought. When seeing a picture of someone’s fiancee I said, “Oh, she’s ugly.” Of course I was maybe 8 or 9. (He left her at Ellis Island when she got off the boat from Germany.)

“You don’t tell everyone the truth like that,” came a reprimand from the adults.

“But why, if it is true?” I retorted.

“Because it is not nice,” came the answer. “If you can’t say anything nice, keep your trap shut, you little 8 year old snot.”

Anyway, you probably didn’t commit a sin. I can’t see how that would be.

If you think a minor exaggeration might be a mortal sin then you definitely don’t need to be reading a book that offers strategies to influence people. The books suggestions are great for achieving the goals in the title but will be a disaster for you. Find a new book.

There is a difference between taste and truth. Did you by some objective standard know that the employee was not doing a good job? Then saying otherwise is a lie. Did you hope that the employee is doing a good job? Then saying so is stating an opinion. In charity and in the absence of contrary facts, Catholics are obliged to think the best possible of another.

“Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”

I took a Dale Carnegie course many years ago and it really helped me through a rough patch. I’m a “boss” now and I try to use the principles.

If you’re worried that a compliment may not be entirely truthful, there’s always a way to rephrase it. Instead of “You are certainly doing a better job than I did when I first started.”, you could say, “We hired the right person when we hired you.”

But like others have said, you’re getting a little to wrapped up in what’s o.k. and what isn’t.

Are you complimenting him or buttering him up?

Big difference.

A compliment is recognizing something good in another and telling them.
Buttering them up is giving them fake positive feedback based on something non-existent.

Don’t do the latter, do the former.

Thank you all for the great replies! It seems that it isn’t grave matter, and thus, isn’t a mortal sin if a sin at all. I’ve never understood this concept. I thought that as long as something was say, a lie, it was grave matter no matter what?

A 'lie" is a statement made in order to deceive someone. If you didn’t intend to deceive someone, then you didn’t lie.

In future, say nice things that you know are true, so as to avoid this kind of second-guessing.

Also avoid saying things that are discouraging, even if they are true.

What if you are in a sticky situation where either you commit the sin of detraction, or you lie?

You can decline to speak.

Or say what you will and ask your priest / spiritual director afterwards.

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