Is it possible to be too nice?
The other day I met a new mom friend who works from home. When I asked her what she did, she was in no way bashful or ashamed about the fact that she has a somewhat X-rated profession. She literally works under a secret identity to protect her kids. She then proceeded to say, “Yeah, my next door neighbors are very religious. I often wonder what they think about what I do.”
Pause. My brain starts working. By anyone’s estimation, I too am “very religious” even though I think it’s an awful way to describe an authentic relationship with Jesus.
In the short amount of time I had to respond, I thought of all sorts of cheesy things to say like, “Well you’re the exact kind of person Jesus would have been friends with!” (I am so glad I didn’t say that.)
Instead, I just said something nice. I said, “Well you’re not doing anyone any favors by pretending to be someone you’re not.” And with those words, I was covering up MY true self. Not doing anyone any favors.
This chick had just unapologetically shared a true part of herself with me. She didn’t know who I was, what I would think, or how I would respond when she told me what she did. In a way, she was confident enough in her own self to risk my rejection, but also kind enough to share herself with me.
What do I wish I would have said? I’m not exactly sure how it would have come out, but I wish I would have shared my true self: “I am a Christian, and Jesus saved me by grace alone, and I have no right to judge you or anyone else for what they do, so I think we can still be friends.” And maybe earlier in the conversation when she asked if I worked, and I said, “No, but I have some outlets for my sanity,” Maybe I could have been real and shared that I sometimes help teach classes and write curriculum at my church.
The root word for nice in latin literally means “NOT KNOW.” It appears to me as a non-English major that nice people are those who are very careful to not upset anyone, but in the process, they are also not known or knowable.
For those of us who are too nice, the fear of rejection is greater than the reward of getting to be who we actually ARE. There is such a reward in feeling the freedom to offer up a true opinion, to really shares what makes you tick, to be honest when someone hurts you, instead of offering up generic niceties whenever you find yourself contrary to someone else.
Hear me, though. I’m not saying anyone needs to be condescending, judgmental, or defensive. I’m not saying we need to be loud and share our opinion with lots of people who don’t ask for it. I’m just saying, if you’re allowed to share with me that you don’t vaccinate your kids, then I’m allowed to kindly and non-judgmentally share my differing opinion (and keep my kids away from yours). So you might hate me? You might be offended? At least you know what you’re hating!
The reality is that we nice people often don’t share our true selves, and people think we’re nice and assume our silence means we are like them, and then later down the road we have to either 1- pretend to be someone we are not, or 2- fess up. I’d also be willing to bet (based on my own personal experience), that many of us who are agreeable up front but hide our true selves are actually harboring more resentment, bitterness, and judgment behind the scenes than those who just get it out up front.
One last thing. Jesus wasn’t very “nice” if we are using these definitions. He called Peter, his best friend, “Satan.” He angrily threw over tables at church. He called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs.” He bluntly told his followers that they couldn’t have their lives and still have him, and many stopped following him. But he wasn’t afraid of people who were different than him and he showed mercy to the most undeserving. He wasn’t always nice, but he was always loving. Let’s not confuse the two.
Okay. Rant over. I’m out.