How We’re Learning
by Brenda Pace
As a good southern girl, I was raised to be nice—or in southern terms sweet. The south is known for its sweet tea and sweeter girls. I beamed with pride anytime I received affirmation, “You’re so sweet!” or heard, “She’s so nice!” Such comments meant I spoke softly, nodded my head in agreement, smiled big, and did not make anyone mad. Mission accomplished. Check the sweet southern girl block.
Over the years, I wondered why being nice did not always feel honest.
Eventually I realized much of my niceness had its roots in fear—especially the fear of what others thought of me. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, or heaven forbid, appear unspiritual. It took some time, but I finally saw that often the nice me was not the real me.
No More “Nice” Girl
However, I did not give up my “nice girl” image without a fight. I decided to look at what the Bible had to say. Surely being nice was spiritual.
Guess what? I did not find one verse about being “nice.” None. Nada. Zilch.
However, I did find a multitude of verses about being kind. Here are only a few of the many:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:21).
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…(Galatians 5:20).
Let a righteous man smite me in kindness and reprove me; It is oil upon the head (Psalm 141:5).
As I’ve journeyed forward in my Christian walk, I’ve replaced the quest to be a nice southern girl with the fervent prayer to become a kind godly woman.
Kindness is a Christian virtue included in the fruit of the Spirit. That means it is not something that comes naturally, but is an on-going supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. Kindness is also not something developed in isolation, but is grown in conjunction with love, goodness, and the other fruit listed in Galatians 5.
The Greek word for kindness carries the meaning of a tender heart and a nurturing spirit. Kindness is a trait of God, but surprise, surprise—Scripture does not picture kindness as niceness. When Jesus walked on earth, he was the personification of kindness.
He was compassionate and thoughtful, but he was also confrontational, truthful, and firm.
HOW TO CULTIVATE KINDNESS:
The virtue of kindness is all about how I relate to others—not out of fear, but inspired by boldness in the Spirit. As I think and pray through how to replace superficial niceness with divine kindness, here are some things that come to mind:
- Pray for self-awareness. I’ve asked the Lord to show me the shortcomings of simply being sweet. I recognize “sweetness” is often superficial and not always honest. John Piper wrote of kindness, “Christian kindness is not merely an external change of manners; it is an internal change of heart.”
- Ask, what is the motivation to show kindness? I’m learning to ask if my motivation to be kind is from love or fear. Am I simply afraid of disappointing someone? The kindness of Jesus was bold and courageous, not fearful or timid.
- Realize the potential and possibility of true kindness. I’m not talking about practicing random acts of kindness. Such practices are good, but Holy Spirit kindness shown through me will not be random. Romans 2:4 is clear that the kindness of God leads to repentance. Sister, you and I can be the conduit of the life-changing kindness of God!
- Practice on-going replacement of “niceness” with Christ’s kindness. Author Barry H. Correy describes this as exhaling kindness after inhaling what the Spirit has breathed into us. Correy writes, “Kindness radiates when we’re earnest about living the way of Christ, the way of the Spirit. Kindness displays the wonder of Christ’s love through us.”
Sisters, I’m done with nice and sweet. I want radical, Holy Spirit motivated kindness. I long to see it exercised in the public square. I crave to shout it as a rally cry of Christ followers. I’m desperate to hear it as the voice of forgiveness, understanding, mercy, and truth. I pray it’s what you hear in my words and actions.
What about you? Do you think of kindness as more of a nice action or a Spirit-infused lifestyle? What difference would it make in your life if you thought less about being nice and more about being kind?
The root word for “nice” in Latin means “ignorant.” When first introduced the word “nice” carried the meaning in English of “foolish, stupid, or senseless.”
With that tidbit of information, I pray: Dear Lord, deliver us from nice, and make us truly kind!
Here are some great books to help on the journey from nice to kind:
Love Kindness: Discover the Power of a Forgotten Christian Virtue by Barry H. Corey, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016.
The Fruitful Life: The Overflow of God’s Love Through You by Jerry Bridges, Tyndale House, 2006.
No More Christian Nice Girl by Paul Coughlin and Jennifer D. Degler, Bethany House Publishers, 2010.
Nice Girls Don’t Change the World by Lynne Hybels, Zondervan Publishers, 2005.
 Merriam-Webster’s Student Dictionary