My friend Elizabeth tells a story about how “being nice” kept her from loving God and loving others:
I’ll give one example of a time I failed miserably at love because of my niceness.
The VBS director asked me to carry on my four-year tradition of leading recreation. We live in Pensacola, Florida, and having no large indoor facilities, we sweat it out in a concrete courtyard in the searing June heat. I nicely informed her of the reality I was sure she had forgotten, “My baby is due four weeks before the scheduled date.” She nicely reminded me that I had led valiantly two years ago, weeks before my third child was due. “You have amazing pregnancies,” she nicely observed. And then she threw in the trump card, “I really don’t know who else could do it.”
So I did the ‘nice’ thing: I agreed to do it.
Here were the not-so-nice outcomes of my niceness:
1. My baby arrived late, so he was only two weeks old when VBS began. I had to hurriedly nurse him between rec sessions, and dehydrated from the heat, I didn’t have much milk to offer. The easiest baby ever born quickly became the crankiest baby alive.
2. I was not nice to my other three kids. I was exhausted and irritable.
3. I was really not nice to my husband, who wondered what possessed me to agree.
On a much larger scale, I failed to live and love well as a Christian.
1. I subsumed God’s role as Author by writing myself in the role of recreation rescuer. I’m pretty sure God meant that role for someone else.
2. Along with that, I perpetuated idolatry, both my own and that of the director, by assuming I was the only one who could fill the position.
3. I was really only nice because I wanted to be liked and respected, not because I was seeking to love God.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in volunteering for church and other ministry activities.
Too many people use the excuse of “I am not called to that place” and leave the church high and dry for helpers to carry out the important but sometimes drudgerous duties that come with large visions and essential ministries.
But in this case, I was nice to one person, primarily to serve my own needs, and in being so, I failed to love God and love others well.