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We often hear people make remarks about others by saying, “He’s a nice guy” or “I like her. She’s nice”. And after hearing that, most of us develop the general idea that the person is good enough. But what does it really mean when we describe people as “nice”?
In the Filipino culture, we often hear people saying, “Mabait ‘yan. Go withthe flow lang ‘yan.” (He is nice. He gets along with everybody). Most of us even like the company of people who we describe this way: “Sobrangbait ‘yang taong ‘yan. Hindi umiimik ‘pag nilalait ng iba.” (That person is really nice. He just keeps quiet when people mock him).
If I were younger, those statements would make me think it’s “safe” to be with those kind of people and I wouldn’t mind hanging out with them often. But now that I am grown, I have realized that nice can be overrated, that I just don’t want to simply be nice and don’t want to influence others to be the same. I have come to an understanding that “safe”or “nice” is sometimes not wise and ironically, “safe” could be dangerous and bad in certain situations.
If you look around, “nice” has taken on negative meanings in many different ways. Underneath being nice could be webs of problems that sadly, no one has dared to deal with – because nobody wants nice people to change. Yet being nice could just mean not having the courage to do certain things for fear of failure, or just going with the flow for fear of rejection, or it could mean pleasing everybody to drink a sense of fulfillment from their praises. It could mean a lot of other different things. In other words, nice may just be a mere sign of sin and weakness.
I have seen the life of a couple with the husband described by everybody as “nice”. But this nice just means being henpecked and having a wife whose delight is to make his husband submit to her wishes and who is proud of it.
I have seen too many people even at church who are nice. They won’t gossip, won’t cheat or tell a lie. They are nice. But there is something about them that seems devoid of life – of the abundant life that God wants His children to live. There are so many people at church who speak about joy as written in the Bible – yet you see them tired, restless and worried all the time. Yet they remain nice because nice is supposed to be good.
I have seen people including myself who refuse to speak truth – truth that could have changed the lives of many but chose not to because we don’t want to throw stones into peaceful ponds. We don’t want ripples. We want the nice status quo.
Nice as it may seem, I believe to be simply nice is not God’s plan for His children. He wants us to be gentle as doves but shrewd as snakes (Matthew 10:16). He wants us to speak truth for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8). He wants us to follow His ways even if it means going against what everybody likes (Romans 12:2). He wants men to lead their wives and not vice versa. (Ephesians 5:22-23) It is therefore not a good thing when husbands just simply follow whatever the wife says. That is not being nice; that is being scared. In fact, the nicest thing you think you could do to someone might be the most dangerous thing for him or her.
If we look deep in our souls, we don’t want to simply be nice; what we really want is to develop a good character. If you ask me how to do just that, I have one thing to say: trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and allow Him to change every bit of who you are. Jesus is like salt. Salt brings out the true flavor in the food. If you invite him in, He will help you become the person you ought to be. But the whole process is not all nice – it can be messy, I tell you. But then again you don’t want nice –you want life, the most abundant kind.