Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

No More Mr. Nice Guy!


Did you grow up hearing the words, “Just be nice!” from your parents, teachers, and other authority figures in your world? I sure did. In every social circle, the message was reinforced over and over again. “Just be nice!”

To me that meant to ignore your feelings no matter (especially anger) and smile. It meant to push aside all conflict and unpleasantness, and cooperate with others. Smooth things over at your own expense. And always, always be sure to display a cheerful attitude with your voice and face.

When I became a Christian, the message of being nice continued. Now there was a purpose to being nice—to be a light in the dark world. After all, how can others see Jesus in us unless we are nice?

While I agree with this sentiment, working with people for years has shifted my thinking. Being nice isn’t enough. In fact, too much niceness is damaging.

As Christ-followers we are called to be kind, not necessarily nice. But “What’s the difference?” you might ask.

Niceness is usually superficial. It is not authentic, because it does not address motivations of the heart. It disguises anger and frustration as acceptable words spoken in sarcastic tones or with double meanings. It talks around problems without ever dealing with the issues. It may even fuel a martyr complex. The root motivation of niceness is the desire to be liked.

Kindness flows from within. It is authentic, because it is based on God’s wonderful, gracious love, and true compassion for others. The Holy Spirit produces deep and genuine kindness that is unshaken by circumstances. It does not shrink back from having a difficult conversation, because the desire for the best possible outcome is in mind. The root motivation of kindness is immovable confidence in God’s love for you as His unique, precious Child.

It is possible to be nice without being kind.

Being nice infects ministry. Leaders tolerate gossip and division, and don’t talk directly with the offenders. People don’t bring up concerns or dare to openly disagree with others. Ugliness festers under the surface, but everyone is nice to each other. After all, we don’t want anyone to leave. Kindness grieves when things under the surface aren’t right and works to make them so. Sometimes the kindest action is to encourage people to leave, so that they can find a place that is a better fit, and those remaining can thrive.

Being nice damages businesses. I spoke with a friend recently about his frustration at work. The owner talks about serving the public with excellence, and yet she tolerates less-than-excellent performance from her employees. She gives warnings, but nobody has yet to be fired, even with absences and drug abuse. The reason? “I want to be nice. They have kids and really need this job.” Sometimes it is kindness that fires a person, as a challenge to rise to the expectations in the work place. This also allows the company to live up to its potential.

Being nice harms relationships. People go months, even years, without communicating honestly. They say and do things to avoid rocking the boat. At some point, they can no longer stuff their frustration and it all comes pouring out in words they later regret. Then they make a promise that they will try harder to be nice, because getting angry didn’t work. I speak from experience. My husband and I were married for 12 years before we had a real conversation about things that caused us frustration. It was scary and vulnerable, but we were better for it, and it opened up the door for more healthy conversations.

An organization—family, workplace, church, service group—is only as strong as its weakest link. It is kindness that confronts weakness and encourages others to develop their potential. It is kindness that provides a safe place for honest communication. It is kindness that establishes boundaries and consequences, and then follows through, always with a loving and forgiving approach.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say to be nice (unless it’s in a modern translation I don’t know about). But it does instruct us to be kind.

I urge you to spend time in prayer and self-examination. Where have you substituted being nice for kindness? Ask the Lord to help you grow in kindness in life and as a leader.

Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32, NLT).

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your kindness that never fails. Teach me to be kind and not to shrink from tough issues. Show me how to speak the truth in love, and always seek to please You rather than people. May I lead with confidence and kindness, doing what is best for others instead of what seems easiest. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Sometimes a Little Rant is Good for You

“God can handle you.” This is one of free lance writer Melissa Hawks’ favorite sayings. It expresses what I’ve known for a long time to be true. And it’s one of the reasons I treasure my relationship with the Lord so much.

Life can be disappointing. Our well laid plans take unexpected turns. Our dreams morph into something we do not recognize. During those times, it’s okay to say we don’t like the situation we’re in. We don’t have to pretend that we’re happy with an outcome when we’re not. It gives me great comfort to know that we can be real and honest with Jesus.

“God can handle you.” He already knows what you are thinking and feeling. Nothing you say is going to surprise or shock Him. Sometimes a little rant is good for you.

Right now I am in the middle of a life transition that has been difficult and confusing. This summer my husband and I resigned our pastorate at a church we have invested ourselves for 16 years. The Lord unmistakably led us here and we’ve done our best to be faithful, even though it has meant my husband has been bi-vocational most of our tenure. When things would get tough, we would pray and discuss with each other if it were time to leave. The answer had always been “no.” We were still called to serve there. However, during these conversations I would say something like, “When it’s time to go, I want to move away. It will be too hard to say goodbye to our church and then stay in the same town.” I had seen other close friends walk that road, and I didn’t want the pain. In my mind, resigning and relocating had to go together. Nothing else made sense.

Well, we resigned and guess where we live? In the same town, three blocks from the church! There are currently no other church ministry opportunities elsewhere, (Not that we are looking. We are in a season of rest.) and we continue working at our other jobs. Staying here is logical.

But it’s not what I wanted, and I was angry.

Thankfully I knew that I could rant to the Lord.

It’s not fair. It doesn’t make sense. It hurts too much. Why are You doing this to me?

Scripture, especially in the Psalms, sets a good precedence for ranting.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:1-2)

You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy? (Psalm 43:2)

Once the rant is over, emotions calm and we can once again remind ourselves that God really does know best. We can reconnect with His faithful love toward us.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me (Psalm 13:5-6).

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 43:5).

After months of off-and-on wrestling with God, I am beginning to see the goodness of God in keeping us here in the same town.

  • He is providing for us financially through our good jobs. I have to commute, but it’s a lovely drive.
  • He protected us from the upheaval of changing everything at once. It takes a long time to adjust to starting over in a new location.
  • He has allowed us to continue to enjoy the friendships we developed with our former congregation, even though we no longer pastor their church.

Are you in the middle of a tough situation? You don’t have to pretend. Let Jesus know how you feel. He already knows anyway. A little rant will do you good.

Heavenly Father, help me to be honest as I express my feelings to You. Thank You for walking with me through every difficult situation, and that You are never offended by what I share with You. Help me to trust You with every area of my life, including those that cause me anger and other intense emotions. In Jesus’ name. Amen.