One of the most eye-opening (convicting) books I’ve read is Sharon Hodde Miller’s book, Nice: Why we Love to Be Liked and How God Calls Us to More. If you are tempted to stop reading this review, due to the word “convicting,” you might be one of those Christians who likes to remain comfortable. Your initial reaction to that statement might be, “How rude to suggest such a thing!” That is my point—and Miller’s point in this book. We want and “expect” Christians to be “nice” all the time. That is not the way of Jesus. Miller states,
“Jesus was loving but he was not nice, nor was he a slave to worldly influence. Rather than sweet-talk the religious power brokers, he called them “vipers” and “white-washed tombs.” (Matt 23:27, 33) Rather than use his access to political leaders for the benefit of himself and his followers, he kept a clear allegiance to the Father. And, rather than maintain a superficial unity with his disciples, he rebuked them and challenged them with the truth.”
Throughout the book, Hodde Miller breaks down the fruit of niceness. She says it is Fake, Rotten, Bland, Bitter, Hard and Processed. Once the fruit of Niceness is exposed, Miller gently redirects her readers and shows them how to cultivate a better tree.
Being nice is not in itself, a bad thing. The author reminds us, “The habit of niceness is convenient for our careers, our relationships, and our reputations, which is why it is such a common fixture of our everyday lives. It’s more common than other habits like study, worship, confession, and obedience, but because it is our habit of choice, it has cultivated something shallow and frail where the character of Christ was meant to be.”
I am grateful I stumbled across this book and I suspect it was God’s timing. The author reveals how wounding and fears create an atmosphere of cynicism (bitter fruit) of which I have been guilty. The author’s encouragement to dig deeper at the end of each chapter helped me immensely. I trust it will lead other readers to greater wholeness and authenticity in their Christian faith.
This book is a turning point. It is time to expose the idol of niceness for what it is and become more like Jesus. Only then can we speak the truth in boldness and love in our world today. This book is a must-read for all who hunger for a deeper and more authentic Christian life.