Rumor has it that nice folks finish last. Nice is weak. Nice makes us easy targets for predation. Being nice invalidates our rights. Mean and tough are optimal options because it shows the world who is King. Don’t mess with me or else. However, in God’s alternative reality, nice is strong and it is the grace that heals and nurtures. Nice is the one God-given alternative against the mess and muddle of the survival-of-the fittest, do-what-you-can-to-get-on-top, lookout-for-number one patterns of thinking. Being nice is fraught with risk, however. It attracts more than an army of would-be bullies and expert manipulators who mistake kindness for weakness.
In modern capitalism competition and one-upmanship is the name of the game to making it big and leaving the competition in the dust. That strategy might be appropriate in the realm of selling the top-ranked mouth watering Twinkie and Taco, competitive sports, and chess games, but when applied to relationships we risk undermining them in the name of self-assertiveness. Our rights first! We wanna win. We want to minimize our weaknesses and pain and maximize our strengths and pleasure while servicing the exact opposite to those we dislike, disrespect, and despise. Bullying as a means to get your way may score you a victory here and there, but the tally of alienation and suspicion adds up rather in the manner of compound interest. Bullying involves coercion and intimidation and it is the classical weapon in the arsenal of unscrupulous politicians and ravenous capitalists intent on decimating their targets in the name of profits, progress, and prevailing ideologies like nationalism, militarism, and ethnocentrism.
The fundamental human drive to posses and control things, the “will to power” reached its classical expression in the German philosopher Nietzsche who postulated that Christianity was a religion for wimps. According to Nietzsche the human race can’t thrive when shackled to compassion for the lost, the least, and left out. The strong must survive while the weak ought to be left to die out. Nature does this by natural selection. We sentient beings, must achieve it by willfulness. To assert ourselves, says Nietzsche, we must surrender the ethics of Christ. Being nice won’t do. Niceness is a crutch and a capitulation to our lower selves. Power gets results. Self-abasement involves sacrifice and therefore detracts from self-advancement.
The way of Christ proves otherwise. His suffering and sacrifice demonstrate the power of love, not the love of power. The fabric that enhances life he weaved in the mill of compassion and kindness. Unless I am misunderstood, let me state that some degree of power (as in force) needs to be exercised in order to make life civil and keep anarchy at bay. God won’t endorse a world ruled by tyranny and disorder (Romans 13). Nonetheless, the danger in power, political and otherwise, is not in its existence, but in its misuse. Like sex and food, power can and is often abused.
Many people operate under a narrative, unconscious or otherwise, that to be mean and rude is to be powerful. Resorting to obscenities, non-verbal theatrics (who in the world hasn’t been flashed with the highly irreputable middle finger!), and power plays (my way or the highway), are means to the ultimate end of achieving control over others, whether justified or not. The problem is, rude hurts. Mean and nasty has the name of violence written all over. Lashing out inflicts pain. Ultimately, mean and rude is not the way of peace because it depersonalizes and dehumanizes. Is it no wonder that we regard as demons those we choose to denigrate? Being mean falls outside the parameters of Christ’s love and his ways. To hate and to be mean is the protocol of Cesar, not of Christ.
No I don’t mean you ought to stop bathing and turn into a full-fledged hippie and retire to the Villa to smoke weed all day. Being a responsible man or woman of God means we ought to take tough action and choices when necessary. But we have no right to be arrogant about it. Halt the hostility and anger. To properly be nice, please do yourself and others a favor and make sure you aren’t becoming an unconscionable flaming arse–le. You are applying for a job. Be suited for it. Sorry to break it to you but it is going to take more than merely cranking up your cuteness factor. Deploy the assets of your best self. Quit being the awful and creepy and angry die-hard who goes to any length to be liked yet manages to be a pathological deviant bastard. Be nice. To do otherwise constitutes a disgrace and appalling display of bad manners. Worse, whatever you think your niceness investment is worth, you risk it going to rack and ruin by adopting the script of the jerk. The anecdotes are plentiful regarding the vile catastrophes unleashed when we behave wrongfully and recklessly: No regard for the driver we cut off, the cashier we yelled out as if he was deaf, or bullying our mates into compliance to our whims.
We want to dig a good life, snag a promotion , or woo the next-in-line chic and we think we have it all safely tucked under the treasure box, down to the cents figure only because we think we deserve it. Ours is an entitlement society. We believe we deserve the A on the test, the blonde bloke, the mansion on the cul-de-sac plus the Lexus, as a bonus. Yet we are unwilling to sweat for it. We are inclined to believe that fate owes us the paramount of success and paradise . More likely, the way we understand life and success resembles more an unending parade of half-baked stereotypes, oversimplifications, and misunderstanding: Life will be good if I merely have good intentions and luck, the Lord has the perfect life path for me , the Horoscope predicts my future love, I’ll be happy in love if he/she meets ALL my needs….. bla bla bla. To our detriment Western culture is all too fond of making life an affair all about me, me, me …… do you hear the sheep bleating? What is in it for ME? How is this relationship going to make ME feel? The whole nine yards of self-centeredness and self-aggrandizement. I am not denying the idea of self-love. It is biblical. In fact, to be adequately and competently human, we must possess a healthy dose of it:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:38-39
This isn’t “love yourself” as an exclusive project towards self-deification. That would be to collude with the realms of narcissism and idolatry. Appropriate self-love occurs in the context of love for the OTHER. The degree and kind of love we dispense either is or is not a steady-state reflection of our own self-regard. Good intentions and actions may constitute nothing, nada, nichts, zero to the left absent love as the tool for constructing a meaningful life for the OTHER:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Nice is good. Nice enhances and advances the Christ-Way of being a new kind of human for a brand new world. This new world eschews violence, revenge, and bullying. If we truly acknowledge that Christ is King over the universe, then it follows we must align ourselves as citizens of his kingdom, a kingdom whose essence is kindness. Hatred will be defeated. Love will win in the end.