stop being nice

“Nice” is an entirely unbiblical notion. “He was nice” is what neighbours say to a reporter about the guy who just committed a heinous crime. “Nice” is a sign that we do not actually see people, but have instead dismissed them. Perhaps our deep conversation has only been, “Hey, how’s it going?” We may be nice, but we have yet to see the person. Nice is a dismissive term; the jargon of non-relationship.

These words come from Phil Wagler’s book, Kingdom Culture. Part of the problem, he continues, is our uncritical embrace of tolerance as a virtue. In our attempts to be nice, we accept a “blanket celebration of difference” without any real engagement with the uniqueness of people. As Wagler laments, “we have no time and little care for each other’s stories. We are nice strangers, indifferent and tolerant from a safe distance.”

And with this distancing it's no wonder so many people feel alone.

As one who constantly promotes authentic community, I resonant with Wagler’s critique. For some reason it’s easier to simply say “fine” when asked how I’m doing. And it’s true, I can get annoyed if someone doesn’t follow suit with their own shallow response. Hearing someone's life story or latest struggle can be uncomfortable. When people share part of their life with me, it means I have to care (pretending only goes to so far). I have to engage. More than be nice, I have to be kind.

Wagler reminds us that kindness is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) - “a radical and under-resourced commodity in this world.” Like Jesus, in our kindness we take the time to see people where they are, quite often “ignored and dismissed.” If niceness is shallow and glosses over the messiness of life, you could say kindness digs deeper into someone's life, recognizing the messiness of life. With kindness, Wagler asserts, people are led to a deeper life in Christ, becoming aware of how God sees them through the kindness of others.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Gal. 5:22-23).


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