He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6: 8
A few months back, I watched a nine year old girl where I work pull out some art supplies and paper. Then she proceeded to draw a picture. This process lasted about two minutes and then she got up, picture in hand, and approached the other kids one at a time.
“Do you like my picture?” she asked them. They nodded yes, or mumbled sure, its nice or told her good job. Then she approached the other teachers and asked the same question. Their responses were similar – why yes, dear I like your picture.
After everyone else had been asked I saw her turn to me and head my way. I did not want to have to answer that question because I did not like her picture. I didn’t want to lie to her (which would be considered nice) but telling her the truth (which would be considered kind) would hurt her feelings. I looked around, but, there was no where to run! I was going to have to answer the dreaded question.
When asked if I liked it, I said no. I told her I watched her make it and felt she hadn’t put much effort in to it. “I have seen you do better art,” I told her.
She walked off, upset and head down.
I watched her though over the days to come, pull out art supplies and instructional cards I gave her on art and she spent long periods of time working and reworking on pictures. I didn’t see her once ask anyone, (especially me) if they liked her picture.
Finally, I sat down with her and told her I hadn’t wanted to tell her that I didn’t like her picture. She said, “it’s ok. I knew the kids didn’t like it, I knew they lied to me. The teachers didn’t really like it either and do you know what? I didn’t like it either.”
I commented that she was putting a lot of effort into her art and that she seemed to be enjoying what she was doing.
She said, “I am glad you told me you didn’t like my picture. Your saying no helped me become a better artist. And I don’t need others to tell me if they like my picture, because what matters is that I like it.”
Nice is concerned about the horizontal relationship and not ruffling feathers. Kindness is more concerned with the vertical relationship and honestly addressing the heart of the matter. Nice gets me off the hook, I don’t have to call anyone out or get into a dispute, I can agree and go on my way.
Kindness, however, requires that I lay aside my desire for self protection and speak the truth (in a loving way) even at the risk of offending someone.
Jesus wasn’t nice, He was kind. He wasn’t afraid to call out the religious leaders of the day who had perverted justice and held on to empty traditions and ignored the real needs of the people.
Jesus called them to righteousness because their vertical relationship with God was based on righteousness. Had His horizontal relationship with them mattered more to Jesus than their relationship with God, He could have been nice and left well enough alone. But He didn’t. He called them to righteousness and continues to make that call today.
No where in the Bible are we called to be nice.
We are called to be kind and to speak the truth in love.
“Unlike niceness, which is focused on outward consequences (a desire to not ruffle feathers or to minimize conflict); kindness comes from inside (love for others and desire for their well-being).” Sarah Cy
Father, forgive me for the countless times when I have chosen the easy path of niceness over the tougher one of kindness. Help me always to see the heart of the matter and place vertical relationship over horizontal relationship. Thank You for granting me the grace to overcome the fear that often holds me back and silences me. Help me always to speak the truth in love, in Jesus name, amen.
I would love to hear from you. Please let me know if I can be praying for you as well.
pic credit: characterstrong.org
pic credit: dyany.org