A review of Nice: Why We Love to be Liked and How God Calls Us to More, by Sharon Hodde Miller
A friend of mine often introduces me as “the nicest guy you’ll ever meet.” When she says this, I know it’s meant as a compliment. But something inside me doesn’t like it. Instead of seeing it as a compliment, I often say to myself:
Self, you’re really not as nice as other people think you are. You’re nice because you want people to like you. You’re not “nice” to others for their benefit, but for your own.”
I know there are many worse things she could call me, but my issue is not with what she says but much more because I know I’m really not “nice.”
Nice: Why We Love to be Liked and How God Calls Us to More
Along comes Sharon Hodde Miller and her new book from Baker Books—Nice: Why We Love to be Liked and How God Calls us to More.
In the introduction to the book, Miller says, “…niceness gets you things. It earned me a lot of attention and positive affirmation, and because of this, it wasn’t long before my motives for being nice became extremely muddled.”
I resonate deeply with this statement. My reputation for being nice earns me attention and affirmation. Many times I’ve wondered if I’m nice to others because I care about them or because I care too much about myself.
I’ve got to stop being so nice. As Miller says, “God did not call you be nice.” Yes, we’re called to be gentle (see Proverbs 15:1, Colossians 3:12, Philippians 4:5, among others). And we know kindness is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Niceness is related to kindness and gentleness, but the idol of niceness can be defined in this way: “the ways we make ourselves pleasant, agreeable, acceptable, or likable in order to get something.”
Miller wrote Nice to help us “consider how we have made niceness into an ultimate thing, how we use niceness to get what we want, what that is doing to our spiritual lives, and how it’s undermining our credibility in the world.”
Mission accomplished. Nice made me think and has challenged me to examine why I’m so nice. I’ve recognized ways in which I hold back from sharing truth because I want others to like me. Being nice has held me back from sharing hard truths in person and in my writing. I don’t like to take on hard topics sometimes because I live in fear of people not liking me. Sometimes my desire to be liked conflicts with my call to obey and speak truth. I’ve long said Christians need to stop being so nice. Miller’s book helps articulate why I’ve felt this way for so long.
Who is this book for?
If you’re someone who realizes you’re nice for your benefit more than for others, you should read Nice. If you’re someone who worries too much about what others think of you, read this book. And, if you’re a people-pleaser—read this book. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, male or female, Nice can help you to be more of who God calls us to be.
In my opinion, the book went a little long. I got a lot more from the first half of the book than the second. I found myself skimming the second half of the book, but I’m so glad I read Nice.
One of the main reasons why I read books is for transformation and change. Nice challenged my thinking and I believe has helped make me more like Christ. I’ve been forced to examine my motives in what I say and write.
Do you struggle with being “nice”? If so, how does it hold you back from all Christ calls you to be? Leave a comment below and help me see I’m not alone!
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