Nice

For many years, I have taken the following approach to my relationships:

  1. Be friendly and polite whenever possible.
  2. Avoid making enemies.

With extensive practice, I’ve become moderately competent at both of these skills. So, while there may be only a few people who view me as a close friend, no one (that I know of) actively views me as an enemy. And, up until recently, I’ve avoided putting anyone I know on the “terrible person” list. Even the people who like me the very least would likely not be averse to a quick chat if I saw them on the street and said hello.

The more I think about it, I think this is probably not a good thing. I don’t want to be remembered for being “nice.” I want to be remembered for being genuine. At the end of my life, I don’t want to look back and recall all the times when people liked or tolerated me because I treated them politely. I want to remember the times when others reached out to love me unconditionally. I guess what I’m saying is I need to start drawing on the kindness of others instead of only dishing it out. If I don’t take this chance, I’m going to end up feeling cheated by life and miss out on the potential to be blessed. So, I’m stepping out of the peaceful, safe, and ultimately crippling bubble of being content with relationships built solely on my “being nice” all the time. If I’m lucky, maybe there will still be a couple of people who will stick around even if they have to put some effort into the relationship.

Moreover, I’m removing my “no enemies” policy. Of course, I’m still going to treat people with respect and common decency, but I’m no longer going to make a mockery of friendship by maintaining a facade of goodwill toward people who continue to hurt me and those I care about. For those of you worrying about the implications of Matthew 5, I ask you to take a look at Psalm 11. God asks us to love as He loved — giving our enemies chance after chance after chance even when they don’t deserve it. But, love doesn’t mean being too unfeeling or stupid to know when “one more chance” isn’t going to make any difference.

4 thoughts on “Nice

  1. Sounds like you’re on the right track to me! I know God has something good planned for you. Check out the song I posted on my FB wall. It made me think of you. 🙂

  2. This is really great. In regards to friendships, I don’t think genuine relationships will be hurt by a failure to be “nice” all of the time. The only relationships that fall by the wayside in this case are nominal ones that are probably not worth your time anyways. One really interesting thing to think about is what place “friendship” even has in Christianity. It’s been said that one striking difference between the Christian tradition and the pagan tradition is that Christianity has historically valued the family as the fundamental unit of support and interdependence, while non-Christian religions have traditionally valued close friendships as this fundamental unit. I think this can be seen to be a fairly accurate characterization, if you look at stories like that of Ruth/Boaz, Esther, etc., and you compare them with stories such as the Epic of Gilgamesh or passages from the Bhagavad Gita, etc. There’s a lot more to say about this, but I’m really tired, so I will have to say adieu for now. Thanks for writing! I really enjoyed this post.

  3. If I may be so bold:

    “It’s been said that one striking difference between the Christian tradition and the pagan tradition is that Christianity has historically valued the family as the fundamental unit of support and interdependence, while non-Christian religions have traditionally valued close friendships as this fundamental unit.”

    I’m wondering what your source is for this. If anything, my experience has said the exact opposite. Eastern cultures (traditionally followers of non-Christian religions), seem to put much more emphasis on family ties, particularly on parent-child relationships than western cultures (traditionally Christian). Read anything about the Confucian idea of filial piety to see what I’m talking about. Lifelong support of, and obedience to parents is held in highest regard. This plays out in other eastern religions, such as some forms of Buddhism which say that killing one’s parents is among the five most terrible sins one can commit, and will instantly guarantee you a place in hell.

    Perhaps when you refer to “the pagan tradition” (which you seem to later use interchangeably with “non-Christian”) you refer exclusively to ancient Mediterranean polytheism. In that case, I really don’t know where they stood on family ties. If, on the other hand, “the pagan tradition” refers to neo-paganism, I think you could make a pretty strong case.

  4. Bold, you are welcome to be.

    Probably, Jedidiah’s referring to the two main religious worldviews, as described by the Quest for Human Destiny course at the UI. In the course, the Biblical way of life was contrasted with ancient Greek beliefs. I’d be careful about viewing Western Culture as anything close to Biblical. 😉

    Haven’t looked into Chinese and Eastern religions myself since highschool, but Holstein did seem to think that Christianity/Judaism was moderately unique in its teachings on family roles.

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