I first heard of Sharon Hodde Miller a few years ago when I stumbled upon her blog and her first book, Free of Me. I have been impressed over the years at her ability to clearly share truths about human nature and God’s goodness while also including practical steps for us to walk out. Her writing is real, honest, and challenging, a combination that I always appreciate.
So, when I saw her latest book was called Nice: Why We Love to Be Liked and How God Calls us to be More, I was instantly intrigued and ready to dive in. But I didn’t know what I was about to embark upon.
Miller goes way beyond the surface of what being “nice” looks like and gets to the heart of why we adopt these behaviors. She has the courage to share stories from her own life with us so we can choose to follow God instead of worshiping the idol of niceness. Within its pages, she discusses things I wouldn’t have immediately associated with niceness, such as corruption, cynicism, and self-righteousness.
I was amazed at how impactful the chapters on self-righteousness and cynicism were to me. While I have a tendency to lean into both of these attitudes and belief systems, I thought cynicism was just how I was wired and self-righteousness was a natural by-product of my strange blend of perfectionism and achievement. Apparently, I was mistaken.
“But here’s the thing about fences—they separate. They separate us from others, but they also separate us from God. The more fences we draw around God’s Word, the further we distance ourselves from it and from him. That is how the Pharisees—a group of people devoted to God—could master the law and yet fail to recognize God in their midst.” p. 97
After reading that passage, I had to stop and sit and repent. It was like Sharon was able to reach through pages of her book and slap me upside the head. I hadn’t ever thought about my own brokenness in quite that light before. While I have always been great at building fences between me and other people, I hadn’t quite seen how my fence-construction had separated me from God.
When reading the Bible, it’s easy to vilify the Pharisees. They are, after all, the people who operated an oppressive religious syndicate and eventually murdered Jesus. But I don’t think that’s taking into account the whole story. Even though they had built up the Great Wall of China around their hearts, God still wanted them. He longed for them to know his true character. He wanted to seek and save them, though they didn’t think they needed saving. And the same is true for us.
“Whether you rebelled against God’s law or you rebelled against his grace, the broken human soul is constantly drifting away from its port. So return. Repent. Quit with the charade, admit you are wrong, and receive the good news that it’s so much better being loved than being nice.” p. 105
Nice is a profound book that caused me to examine my heart and my mind more closely. While I didn’t struggle with all of the “fruits” of niceness she describes, I was shocked by the fruits of niceness I am prone to display. Each principle is riddled with Scripture and grounded in personal stories and growth. This is a great book to check out, no matter where you think you fall on the “niceness” spectrum.
Have you read Nice?
Do you think you have a “niceness” problem?
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