Growing up the daughter of a pastor-turned-policeman, I was often told to “play nice” or “be nice to the other children.” Not that I was a menace, because honestly I wasn’t. But still the refrain of “being nice” was spoken over and over. Apparently I listened well, because I was almost always the nice little girl.
As an adult now, I have attended a number of churches that are full of nice people. They talk nice to each other. They pray nicely for each other. Everyone acts, well, nice. But I recently came to my own conclusion that nice isn’t enough. Not for me and not for the Church.
I was sitting in a twentysomething women’s Bible study this past week when we began talking about speaking the truth in love to our friends who were heading down dangerous paths. My good friend, posed the question, “Where is the balance between being nice and just telling the truth?” Her question made me realize how much I dislike the word “nice.”
Love isn’t about being nice. It’s about showing love and meaning it.
When I watch a friend in a relationship that is unhealthy, it’s easy to keep my mouth closed and be nice. But is that what’s best for my friend? No, loving my friend means being honest and expressing my concerns for her. Sometimes that doesn’t feel so nice. Sometimes it feels like I am poking my nose in where it doesn’t belong. Sometimes it feels like I am being intolerant of her life-decisions. So what? Love isn’t always about making me feel good or accepted—it is about loving someone else enough to want the very best for them.
Now before you head off thinking it’s time to tell some people the truth—the cold, hard, brutal truth—wait! We are told in Ephesians 4:15 that we grow as we speak the truth in love. Love is the key here. What’s your motivation? If your motivation comes from something other than love than maybe you will be satisfied with just being nice. Or perhaps telling a bitter truth may be the only words coming out of your mouth.
I don’t think that’s what you want, and that’s certainly not what I want.
Knowing this doesn’t always make speaking the truth easy. Sometimes I don’t speak the truth, because I care more about being liked than loving my friends—let’s get real, most of us want to be liked.
Another girl in this same Bible study has recently become engaged. She was previously married and divorced. This last week she shared how, when the marriage was ending, a friend approached her and told her how she wasn’t surprised at the divorce and, from the beginning, hadn’t expected the marriage to last. Hurt and angered by this friend, the girl expressed to us how much she desires honesty from her friends, even if it hurts at the time. She went so far as to ask us if we saw any warning signs in her relationship now—thankfully, we all heartily approve of her fiancé!
She’s got this friendship thing down. She longs for love in her friendships and gives it in return—the kind that is willing to express the good, the bad and even the ugly but is never willing to settle for just being nice.