Encouragement (Judges 7:11; II Samuel 19:7) is the ministry of using our words to give someone hope or confidence. We encourage when we “speak courage” into someone’s life. It’s motivation is humility and it’s meaning is truthful.
For example, if someone has lost their job, we might encourage them with the truth that God is sovereign and trustworthy and He will care for our needs. If someone is discouraged because their friend or family member rejected Christ, we might encourage them with the truth that the Holy Spirit has the ability to illuminate any darkened mind and our calling is to simply plant the seed and pray.
Encouragement is meant to give inspiration to the weary.
Flattery (Psalm 5, 12, 78) may use similar terminology, but is usually filled with words of insincere praise. In other words, we might want someone to feel better about a certain situation, but we use questionable vocabulary. It is using words to cover the reality of the situation. It’s motivation is selfishness and it’s meaning is insincere.
For example, someone may continually struggle with public speaking, and we might choose to flatter them by saying, “You are gifted and one day you will be a great public speaker.” Well, maybe they won’t or maybe they will. The point is: we don’t know and it is flattery to say otherwise.
So, Christian, always choose an encouraging word. It is guaranteed to edify; never use a flattering word, it has no guarantee to make the person better.