What does that mean, anyway? Is it a compliment? An insult? Neither?
I’ll go with neither. Or more like somewhere in between. Really, it’s means as much as the information it gives you – i.e. not much.
“Oh, he’s nice.”
What does that mean?!?? Does it mean he’s kind? Compassionate? Respectful? Interesting (that’s another one)? Maybe, but evidently, not enough for those words to be used in place of “nice”.
Dictionary.com defines “nice” as “pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory”. To “make nice” is to “be pleasant or polite to someone, typically in a hypocritical way“. A phrase that I will forever associate with my IB days, “nice one (la)” is “used sarcastically to comment on an inept act”. “Nice to meet you“: “a polite formula”.
Doesn’t seem to be too much of a compliment, does it? The more I think about it, the more it seems that “nice” is just another one of those ‘safe’ places or safe things to be. No one’s gonna fault you for being “nice”. But is that really all you want to be? Nice?
I fully believe in being polite and respectful, and pleasant and agreeable whenever I can be. But not at the expense of who I am and what I believe in. If being “nice” requires making those kinds of compromises, then I will gladly be “not nice”. See, I don’t think the opposite of “nice” is “mean”. In fact, I don’t think there is an opposite that is useful for providing any real information – no more than “nice” provides. Being “nice”, in the way we most commonly use and understand it, seems to involve or imply an element of pleasing people. I’m not sure people are gonna call you “nice” if they are displeased with you. And that’s dangerous, because we aren’t living to please people. Sure, we aren’t here to offend them, but we don’t live to please them either, and that’s that. Offending people is not the opposite of pleasing people – at least, I don’t think so. But pleasing God entails respecting and loving His people. That makes a lot more sense to me.
Being agreeable is not bad, as long as you truly agree with what’s being said. You can’t be agreeable to everything – that just means that you have no opinions of your own. And that’s not a good thing. I used to take some sort of woefully misguided pride in my being able to get along with everybody – anybody worth getting along with, anyway (ha). Being “open-minded”, I called it (and was also told by others). I would still like to believe that I am open-minded (which is not a bad thing), but back then (and now, too, sometimes – I won’t say I’m over it completely) a lot of the times it just meant that I had no opinion or would suppress my opinions in order to keep the sacred “peace”. That’s not peace. Peace is not eliminating arguments by forced suppression of opinions and elimination of all differences. Peace exists when differences can exist and be fruitful, enriching and uniting a body, rather than destroying it completely. If being nice means being afraid of differences, I choose to be not nice.
It’s not about making names for ourselves, of course, but nobody makes a name for himself by being “nice”. We’re not trying to make names for ourselves, but we are trying to make a name for God. I want my God to be known as powerful or mighty or awesome or loving or merciful or gracious or compassionate or sovereign or … Anything but “nice”. I believe in a “nice” God? Yeaaaah I don’t think people are gonna be too excited about that. There will be people who love my God, people who fear Him, people who are in awe of Him, people who scorn Him, people who mock Him, people who hate Him, but all of those are better than people who have no response to Him, because the very person that God is demands a response. I think that if we are presenting an image of a “nice” God, we’d be better off not presenting Him at all. I mean, what are people supposed to say to that? “Um, okay, that’s cool.” I’m repeating myself, I know, but – let’s do God justice by not being “nice”, by being more than “nice”, by actually reflecting His character, which is undoubtedly, undeniably not “nice”. Do you really need a list of adjectives to replace that? Go stick “good” or “holy” or even “God” in the thesaurus for starters.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors…” – 2 Corinthians 5:20