Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Memoir of a Once Nice Person

Perhaps you’ve heard it said (or said it yourself), “Ruby-Toes is such a nice person!” Or maybe you are that nice person—the one people like to have on committees, the one who is the first to compliment a new hairstyle or accommodate a different idea.
Nice people are often good listeners and they have a lot of personal contacts. But, as a once-nice person, I’m here to tell you otherwise. When it comes to nice people, what you see is probably not what you get.
As a once-nice person, I have been convicted that niceness is not good. It is not biblical. It is not right. Unless you have already stumbled upon this little-known truth, you may be reading with your mouth agape, in absolute shock. “What’s wrong with being nice?” you ask. Let me tell you my woeful tale.
I was born at a very young age, the oldest of four children, to a pair of up-and-coming professionals. A compliant child, my standard answer to any question of preference was, “I don’t care.” My parents taught me well. Grandma would ask, “Would you like hot cocoa?”
“I don’t care.”
“You don’t care? Either you would or wouldn’t. Would you like some?”
Next standard answer, “Whatever’s easiest for you, Grandma.”
And so life went. It was a blessing to be born with the desire to please. I never rebelled as a teenager (all the options seemed self-destructive or inconvenient). I married early and enjoyed the generosity of a wonderful husband.  Rather than express my preferences, I was proud when I pleased him: “Just give me a template and  watch what I can do.” I was convinced that pleasing others was what Jesus would do. He would give it all up—even the little things—to serve others.

And then, (drum roll please), I saw examples of Jesus not pleasing others, times He disagreed with and defied others. He never said, “It doesn’t matter,” or “whatever’s easiest for you.” He bowed His will to the Father’s, and only the Father's. Oh, boy.

I weighed what I received in return being nice: kind words, added responsibility, smiles, unfair advantages. And I wondered, “What if I wasn’t nice?” Would people still like me? Would they give me what I want? Would they give me what I want?! There it was—my heart's motivation! It was easy to be nice and give in to others’ wants and demands because it gave me power.  The opportunity to get things for myself, to manipulate.  All these years, I had covertly been getting my own way very “nicely.”

Praise the Lord, He intervened. But it was a very trying, difficult number of years. I learned that God designed my preferences  There is nothing sinful about liking things a certain way. I don’t know if this change was harder on me or on my husband. I started to experiment and communicate likes and dislikes. After being married nearly twenty years, my husband discovered he was married to someone he didn’t know—someone who didn’t know herself!

I had to fight the urge to be agreeable all the time. I had to fight the urge to be liked, and wanted, and pleasant. It wasn’t that I wanted trouble, but I wanted freedom; freedom to make choices, freedom from lies, freedom to be myself. And that was okay, because that’s how God made me. I also wanted to be obedient—obedient to God first and foremost instead of being obedient to others’ whims or my own hidden agendas. Whew.

Now, now that I’m not nice, life is a little more hairy. It’s more challenging at times. I’m learning to roll with conflict. To agree to disagree. To learn how to respond when others say “no” directly instead of indirectly. And, overall, I believe I’m more trustworthy. I can be honest with you about how you look, where we should go for lunch, how much I’ve prayed for you lately, and where God is working in my life. I can love you more sincerely because I am willing to acknowledge and overlook your faults instead of bending to your will and then holding a grudge against you for not doing things my way (which I was unwilling or unable to communicate). Though it’s been difficult, I have acknowledged that the base problem is not others, but me: wanting what I want because I want it.

And now, now that I’m not nice, God is showing me all the big and little items I hid behind “curtain number two” the whole time I was pleasing others instead of Him. God’s description of the young boy, Samuel, has been a lifeline to me, “But Samuel was ministering before the LORD -a boy wearing a linen ephod.” (1 Samuel 2:18) Samuel wasn’t ministering to Eli. He wasn’t ministering to the people. He wasn’t even ministering to his parents. Samuel was ministering before the Lord—and others were blessed by His service.

As I continue to work at overcoming niceness, that is my aim: to minister before the Lord, and Him alone. If you are struggling with being a nice person, I challenge you to begin by being honest with God. Spend time in prayer and His Word asking Him to reveal your heart. If you are struggling because you live with a nice person, continue to pray that God would do a work in his or her heart and lovingly challenge that niceness. Being nice is an addiction, but our God is sufficient. He desires our worship and praise to be directed at Him and Him alone.


 Pleasing People: How not to be an "approval junkie" by Lou Priolo

 When People Are Big and God Is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man by Edward T. Welch

 No More Christian Nice Girl: When Just Being Nice--Instead of Good--Hurts You, Your Family, and Your Friends by Paul Coughlin and Jennifer D. PhD PhD Degler

 Jesus Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God by Mark Galli

1 comment:

  1. Well said and oh so true! You know, when studying the Fruit of the Spirit several years ago it dawned on me that "nice" wasn't one of them. "Kind" and "nice" just aren't the same thing (as many people lazily assume). I've too thought about Jesus and how if He were here in this day and age He would ruffle feathers from his lack of nice-ness in interactions. You and I are not the only ones who fall into the "nice" trap, though I think reasons for doing it would vary from person to person. I appreciate your stories and your honest words. I'll pray for you as you continue down this path of serving Christ when sometimes that way isn't the easy way out. This post encouraged my heart today.


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