Today’s guest blogger is my someone you’ve already met on my blogs. She has recently taken on the role of un-official driver and chief motivator on The Blogger’s Bus. You can catch her daily at Hey Sparky! What Time Is It? Lisa is the person most likely to be on the receiving end of my impulsive mailing habit.
I’ve lived a lot of different places in my life, each one with its own vibe. I was born and raised in small town Ohio, however, and though I can assimilate into almost any American culture, it would be fair to say that for the most part I am Midwestern to the core.
You know “Midwestern”, right? Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. Respect your elders. Meat and potatoes. 4H projects. Go to church. Do the right thing. And above all…be nice.
Be nice. There’s probably some Midwestern anthem, and the totality of its lyrics are “be nice”. In my mind I can hear it, set to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus:
BEEEee NIIccee!! BEEEee NIIicce! BE NICE! BE NICE! BEE NIIIice!
That tune played loudly in my brain most of my life. When someone else behaves badly, be nice. When you are hurt, be nice. When you don’t get what you want, be nice. When someone disagrees with you, or is just plain disagreeable, be nice. When your relatives give you underwear for your birthday, be nice. Being nice was the answer to everything from muddy footprints on your floor to poorly seasoned food to dealing with jerks.
I was well into adulthood when I started to realize that being nice wasn’t quite serving me the way it seemed it should. It had its perks, but not to the extent a dedicated Nice Person would hope. And somehow, I felt vaguely off kilter. As if something was missing, something crucial. As if I wasn’t quite the person I was designed to be.
The answer came to me through scripture, as answers often do. I didn’t see it for years, though it was there in every single translation I visited.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;
against such things there is no law. -Galations 5: 22, 23
This is a list of the attributes and qualities that grow in you when the Holy Spirit is active in your life. Look how high nice is on the list!
What? You mean nice isn’t even on the list?
I was a bit shocked when I discovered this. Even more so when I realized that nice was actually an act of human flesh and will, which means that the Spirit hadn’t been manufacturing the nice in me. I had!
But then relief began to flood through me as the lights turned on. God doesn’t want me to be nice; He wants me to be kind! God doesn’t want me to be nice; He wants me to love! God doesn’t want me to be nice; He wants me to live in peace! And even better—He’s going to produce all this stuff in me Himself! Being nice is small compared to having God’s attributes in me so big and strong that they flow out of me and onto others.
I also began to understand why being nice was so unsatisfying. Being nice blocked my entrance into the life God had for me. It kept me from being fully me as He intended me to be. I am wired to see and speak things that are offensive to nice. I am to speak them plainly in love. Not in nice. In kindness, but not in nice. In gentleness, but not in nice. Given room to play, nice will water down love every time. It will fake kindness and produce false peace. Nice is too afraid to really speak truth. Nice means well but is never real or lasting. Only that which is produced by the Spirit is real and lasting.
It’s easy to bring the past into your present and assume it’s good. But is it? What if it’s just nice? What if you have a core value that actually opposes what God wants to grow in you, but you’ve assumed He’s cool with it because it’s nice?
Let that tweak your brain for a while.