Creative LeadershipEngaging Culture

When It’s Not Nice to Be Nice

I like to be nice. At the very least we should always be gracious. But I also discovered that many people I’m nice to aren’t nice back. So I learned to be strong as well as being nice. Trying to keep everyone around you happy is an exercise in futility. It’s like juggling too many balls. Your job isn’t to make everyone happy. Your job is to be you. Not the “you” people necessarily want you to be – but the “you” that you really are. The genuine thing. It’s not about being selfish or rude. It’s about not being a doormat. You are important to God. You have value. You matter. Be nice, but be strong.


  1. This is SO TRUE. 

    We have by default created in Christendom “a culture of terminal niceness.”  It not only lacks substance, it clearly misrepresents our faith.  Ask the guys who were thrown out of the temple how nice Jesus was.  Ask the Pharisees who He called out as “blind guides and hypocrites” how appropriate His approach and language were in light of their “respected” position in New Testament Jewish culture.  Did the prophets and apostles do parties, network, do conferences?  I don’t think so!

    The Gospel by nature is assertive, confrontational and disruptive.  It is genuinely counter cultural and the only way to truly experience it is to be what God has created us to be.  Meekness is not weakness and group thinking “nice” Christians do great harm by diminishing the bright light within.

    Great post Phil!!  Go out today and yell at someone!!

  2. I really appreciate this post. I think especially as a woman, I tend to want to be nice without realizing that I’m undermining my intrinsic value. I really like what Rick said, “Meekeness is not weakness and group thinking ‘nice’ Christians do great harm by diminishing the bright light within.”

    So, Rick, you also said, “Did the prophets and apostles do parties, network, do conferences? I don’t think so!” I have a question for you (or anyone else for that matter): how do you remain as wise a serpent and as innocent as a dove when you’re trying to move forward in life? Because networking can bring about connections that may lead to the fulfillment of your calling that God has put in your life. Perhaps what you mean is that our light and our calling will attract others to us and not necessarily the other way around? Because this is a concept i struggle with. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it…

  3. I agree with you Phil, I tend to try to be nice even when I don’t feel like it but there are times I can say no. Is this genuine? Sometimes.  But then there needs to be balance in the other direction as well because being strong can turn into narcisism. I’ve worked for some Christian leaders who just weren’t nice to work for after a while because they began to think the world revolved around them and what they did mattered more than what you did. A daily walk with Jesus can keep that in check.  Thanks for the thoughts and keep being a strong nice guy.

  4. Hey Bethany,

    Good questions. 

    N.I.C.E has been defined as Not Inclined to Critically Examine.  In this context, our greatest asset is “the POWER (Greek word dunamis where we get “dynamite) that works within us.” (Eph. 3:20)  Without awarness of that power – what C.S. Lewis called “hideous strength” – and its very personal ability to shape us into His image – we can “network” ourselves into a culture that has a “form of godliness” but lacks the power to change anything – least of all us.

    The wisdom of a serpent has to do with a snake’s ability to blend in when necessary and then go on the offense at the most opportune time.  Jesus could get lost in a crowd but at the right time he could strike with a whip (He made it Himself) and His mouth calling people “white washed tombs.”  He critically examined the culture when they didn’t even know He was watching.

    You hit it right when you said “our light and our calling will attract others to us.”  That’s it.  The supernatural is infectious and viral all by itself.  People are drawn and – let’s face it – offended at the same time.  We can’t be afraid to make people mad!

    By the way a MUST read in this arena is “Tribes” by Seth Godin  Yes it’s about marketing, social networking but it’s greatest value is an inspirational call to leadership.  As Seth would say – “We need you to lead us.”

  5. Ha, so maybe that’s one thing in common between Christianity and Hollywood – the only two places where you can die of niceness! 

    Diving into conflict, saying “no”, correcting someone – all this makes you vulnerable (whether to critisism of your theology/devotion/holiness on one hand, or to being shunned for speaking your mind about a crummy script/actor/producer that goes on to make millions at the box office)

  6. Hmmm…. Interesting perspective….

    I would not  equate “being nice” with “being trampled on”. I think you can be nice AND say no. I have a very creative team of radio people who are always coming up with great ideas, but I have to say “no” because it does not give direct value to our radio ministries. It also gives me a chance to explain why I say no, and a chance to explain where I would like to go with the ministry, and the difference between their idea and one that would fly.

    Being nice to people who are not nice to us is exactly what Jesus was talking about when he said that we should forgive our brother “70 times 7”. That is a lot of “un-nice” encounters that we have to endure and we are expected to forgive that person every single time. No “hardening” found here. But there is tremendous “strength” here because it is hard to be nice to people who are not nice to us and to do that day after day after day.



  7. Phil, this is such a good issue to address.  Many people think Christians should be doormats and never be assertive.  Being nice is mistaken for being weak.  Trying to keep EVERYONE happy IS an excercise in futility… but God calls us to ge genuine before him and others and wants us to press forward in the things we’ve been called to do, helping others along the way.    Allen Paul Weaver III Author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers and Speedsuit Powers (Dec 2009)

  8. The word “nice” is not in the Bible. I have a whole message I preach on this. Religious deception makes Christians think they are supposed to be doormats for everyone — nothing could be futher from the truth.

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