I’ve been described as a “nice” person before. You know – the kind of person who smiles at strangers in passing, who holds the door for those behind her, who might let someone into traffic, who leaves a nice tip behind. It tends to come from an eager-to-please kind of personality.
But those kinds of things simply aren’t that hard to do. And they can easily be faked or forced when you feel anything but “nice” on the inside. The real question we need to be asking ourselves is – does the world really need more people who are just “nice”? The kind of people who do the obligations, who give the smiles and the quick kindness that fits in with their schedules?
On the one hand, society does need those kinds of people, because it makes living together on this planet a lot more enjoyable. I’m not saying that we stop doing those things and become rude, aggressive people who ignore and mistreat others.
But what I’m really asking is – is that enough? Is it enough to go just far enough to be nice in social settings? Or do we need a little more with our daily relationships?
Don’t we need more people who are willing to invest in relationships, even when they are tough or inconvenient? Don’t we need more people who are willing to be honest, with the deepest of love behind their words, challenging us to go beyond our comfort zones? Don’t we need more people who will stop and truly listen, not just say an “I’m sorry” and move on with their lives?
The more I learn about the importance of life-changing relationships this year, the more I realize it’s not always easy. Pouring out your soul into another’s life requires commitment and the sacrifice of some of our life’s comforts. But it’s also the most rewarding.
Because when I’m just a “nice” person, I’m doing the socially acceptable thing, but I’m only serving myself – because I’m just doing what’s convenient for me.
When I’m just a “nice” person, I still keep all my own comforts, but I never experience the kind of joy that comes from giving myself away to others.
When I’m just a “nice” person, I get the quick satisfaction from others’ “nice” responses, but eventually such interactions feel rather fake and superficial.
When I’m just a “nice” person, I’m going to always need to protect my reputation instead of allowing myself to be vulnerable and open with others who might need a little more than half-baked smiles and polite nods.
With acquaintances, yes, we’ll stick to those boundaries of politeness and smiles and warm greetings. It wouldn’t necessarily be wise to go further with every single person we interact with. But with those who are closer to us – our closest co-workers, our family members, our friends – we must learn to go deeper.
Deeper to where it might hurt a little. Deeper to where it’s true and honest. Deeper to what really matters in our souls. Deeper to a place that allows us to connect with each other and make life-changing impacts.
I will admit – I’m not the greatest at this. Yes, I love having deep conversations with people. Yes, I love being the ear to listen and the one to encourage and the one to send the Bible verse or the prayers. And yes – I’m even good at sharing my heart through writing.
But I have a really, really hard time telling someone else verbally that I’m struggling – that I’m having a hard day – that I’m feeling down – that some days, I just want to give up, because the fight with myself never seems to end.
Why is that? Because I don’t want to burden others. I figure they have too much going on in their own lives and they don’t want to hear my old sob story again.
But if I want others to be vulnerable with me and trust me, then I have to learn to reach out to those who are closest to me and do the same with them. I have to stop fearing their judgment or their busyness or maybe even their lack of understanding – and I have to trust that God gave me relationships for “such a time as this.” A time where it’s not us just being “nice people,” but it’s us truly living through life together, with all its good and bad days.
These kinds of relationships are the ones that go deep and mean more than all the casual, surface-level encounters we’ll have with dozens of people every day. Because in the end, we just want to be known by someone – and cared for by someone.
I’m willing to start genuinely learning what that looks like. May God give us all the courage to trust one another and care for each other the same way that Christ cares for us with agape love. And may these kinds of relationships set the world on fire for the advancement of His kingdom.