Kindness versus niceness

One of the things that I have struggled with and many men I know struggle with is the difference between kindness and niceness. These two things are not the same thing, and getting them confused often leads men down an unrighteous and undesirable path. Kindness, of course, is a fruit of the Spirit, whereas niceness is concerned meeting a need while placating feelings.

The reason why niceness eventually leads to evil is that it utilizes both truth and lies. For example,  it is certainly nice to help out a homeless victim with food. On the other hand, it is also nice to say that “you’re not fat” when a woman asks you “do I look fat?” Helping the homeless person meets a need and also placates both of your feelings in a good way, but meeting the need with a lie also placates feelings but is inherently evil.

On the other hand, kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. In the Spirit there is only Truth. In reality, kindness is advocating the Truth with a touch of grace. Let’s look at a few examples.

Romans 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.

  • What is the Truth? — That we all sin and fall short of the glory of God.
  • What is the grace? — That God sent His son, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Therefore, we can say that kindness is advocating the Truth with a touch of grace.

1 Peter 3:7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with [c]someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

  • What is the Truth? — women/wives are the weaker vessel.
  • What is the grace? — living with her in an understanding way, and showing her honor as a fellow heir in Christ (with a penalty for disobedience: so that prayers may not be hindered).

If a woman/wife asks if something makes her look fat and she is then…

  • the Nice answer is no, but that is a lie.
  • the Truthful answer is yes, but it is generally not graceful.
  • a Kind answer may be to decline to answer or a sarcastic answer, as a Truthful answer may not be palatable to the ears.
  • edit: a Kind answer may be something like: “Honey, you know I love you, but you have gained some weight. How can we work together one that?”

edit: Donal has some valid critique here. In general, what I was trying to get is that women are fairly good at reading between the lines, and do not necessarily have to be told overtly about something to understand. However, that can be confusing, so I added in a better example with my edit to be ‘more Truthful’ so to speak.

Men who are fathered and/or mentored to be men act and speak with a strong intent. This is normal. What is for men is often not what is for women.

Women, however, tend to need more flavoring with their food. Food is Truth. Is the essence and meat of the subject. However, Truth (or meat) by itself tends to be very unpalatable to women. Thus, they need flavoring with food to make it more palatable. This is where grace comes in.

Kindness is Truth with the flavor of grace. It is in this way that God treats us to bring us to repentance, and it is also in this way husbands are to treat their wives.

Learning how to be kind — how to speak the Truth with grace — is difficult and requires much practice and knowledge of Truth and how to speak and act gracefully, especially in conflict.

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13 Responses to Kindness versus niceness

  1. donalgraeme says:

    I have a post in the works in response to this. Should be done soon.

  2. Pingback: Handling The Truth | Donal Graeme

  3. Yggdrasil says:

    “. . . niceness is concerned meeting a need while placating feelings. The reason why niceness eventually leads to evil is that it utilizes both truth and lies.”

    That’s a pretty warped definition of “nice.”

    Try the Dictionary.com definition: “1. pleasing; agreeable; delightful: a nice visit.
    2. amiably pleasant; kind: They are always nice to strangers.

    “. . . it is also nice to say that ‘you’re not fat’ when a woman asks you ‘do I look fat?’ . . . but meeting the need with a lie also placates feelings but is inherently evil.”

    It’s also a pretty warped view of sinfulness to say that telling your wife she doesn’t look fat is evil.

  4. @Yggdrasil:

    Might take ya a little more seriously as “not a troll” if your name wasn’t the Norse Mythological World Tree.

    As to the point, in classic Concern Troll-style, you’ve completely missed what most mean by the phrase “be nice”. Also, scroll down the dictionary page further.

    “Idioms
    16.
    make nice, to behave in a friendly, ingratiating, or conciliatory manner.”

    As for the straw-man, Lying is Lying. That’s why the “Cult of Nice” is very Evil. Even if it’s a smooth tasting Evil; Evil it is.

  5. Yggdrasil says:

    Although I got a chuckle out of your observation, being a fan of Norse mythology hardly makes me a troll. Is accusing someone who bothers to read your post and comment on it of trolling your way of avoiding being being “nice”?

    I didn’t missed your point and the idiomatic uses of the word “nice” do not help your argument. Being friendly and/or conciliatory in no way requires one to lie, nor does the word “ingratiate,” though usually used pejoratively, require lying.

    And I still think that equating telling your wife she doesn’t look fat with sinfulness is down right silly.

    BTW, I’ve read many other posts of yours and enjoyed them. I even have your site listed in my favorites so that I remember to visit it from time to time. If you don’t want people commenting critically on what you write, why do you post on-line?

  6. shredifier says:

    @Yggdrasil
    I’m.being genuine here, could you explain your position here:

    Say my wife was very fat, and she asked me if she was, and I tell her no you’re not fat…..do you believe that I’ve sinned by NOT telling her the truth?

  7. @ Yggdrasil

    LG is not me.

    However, he is correct that it is sinful to lie and not tell the Truth. Bearing false witness is one of the 10 commandments.

  8. Yggdrasil says:

    @ shredifier,

    Let me rephrase your question as follows:

    “If your very overweight wife asks you if she is fat and you tell her that she is not, have you sinned?”

    My answer to that question is, it depends. Let me explain.

    Without going into chapter and verse, I think most thoughtful Christians would agree (1) that sin, as described and explained in the New Testament and especially in the Gospels, is not a matter of disobeying rules (e.g., the Hebraic Law) but rather of failing to follow God’s will for us, and (2) that what God desires above all else is that we be pure of heart.

    Based on this, whether telling your wife that she is not fat is sinful or not depends on what is in your heart, i.e., your motivation, not on the words you say. Thus, if because of your love for her and out of concern for her self-esteem, you were to say, “You are not fat to me,” I do not believe God would hold that against you. On the other hand, if your wife were asking the question because she was concerned about her health, you understood this and, nevertheless, you answered in the negative because you didn’t care what happened to her, then I would think the Lord would be very upset with you because you would be violating the commandment to love others as yourself.

    What separates Christianity from most other religions is the emphasis on doing what is good for and right by others. We are to be motivated at all times by love for our fellow men and women. When we act out of love, I don’t believe that God will call our actions sinful.

    The word “fat” has too many negative connotations to be a used casually. Your query as to whether “not telli[ng] the truth” is sinful is not, IMO, the correct question for a Christian to ask because, for a Christian, “truth” implies something more than simply “factually correct.” The words we speak must reflect the love of Jesus Christ if they are to be truthful in the Christian sense.

    All that being said, let me confess to being someone who struggles to avoid saying thinks that are literally true but are also hurtful. Blunt language and tactlessness are major faults of mine, which may explain why this post caught my attention.

  9. Robin Munn says:

    Yggdrasil –

    The justification you present for telling your (hypothetical) wife the falsehood “You are not fat to me” is dangerous. (Note that in this hypothetical, it is a falsehood to tell your wife that she doesn’t look fat to you, because she’s very overweight. If it were a matter of ten pounds, then you might be able to truthfully tell her that she doesn’t look fat to you — but in this scenario, she is undeniably fat and the question is how you answer her given that fact). Two things will happen in that scenario:

    1) You will make it slightly easier for you to justify the next time you tell someone a falsehood, because “it’s for their own good”. And next time, there may be a little bit of self-serving mixed in with your motivations, like “If I upset my wife, she’s going to be crying the whole time we drive home, and I won’t enjoy that at all.” And next the time after that that you’re tempted to tell a falsehood, there might even be a little bit more self-serving in your motivations. This kind of subtle, “Oh, it’s okay just this once” is how LOTS of people slide into outright sin. It’s not healthy for your soul.

    2) Your wife will know that you just lied to her. She knows she’s fat; she can see it every time she looks in the mirror. So she’ll learn that you are willing to lie to her to spare her feelings — which will be harmful to her in the long run. Because let’s say that she actually manages to do something about her weight: she starts lifting weights and reducing her sugar intake, and after a couple of years of sustained effort she’s down to merely plump instead of fat. (Yes, not many people manage to sustain that kind of effort, but some genuinely do.) And now she wants to know whether you have noticed the change in her, and whether you feel more attracted to her than before. But now you have a real problem, because when you tell her, “Yes, honey, you look great,” she already knows you’re willing to lie to her to spare her feelings, so she can’t believe you now. She wants to believe you, but there’s a small voice in her head that’s saying, “Yes, but he’s probably just saying that to make me feel better. He doesn’t really believe it.” And who put that voice in there? You did, when you lied to her “to spare her feelings” earlier. By being “nice” when she was fat, you were actually unkind in the long run, because now when she could really use an “attagirl” from you, she can’t believe the one you gave her.

    When my wife and I were dating, I made sure that she knew that if she ever asked me if she looked fat, I would give her an honest answer. But you know what that means? Now, when we’re at the gym and I give her a compliment on how her strength is improving, she knows I mean it. I don’t tell her, “Wow, you’re strong!” She knows that she’s the weakest person at the gym, because she can see what weight the other people are lifting. So she would know that that was a lie if I told her that. But she’s also a lot further along than she was six months ago, and I want her to feel good about that fact — so I tell her, “See the weight you just lifted? Remember six months ago when you were struggling to lift half as much weight as that? You’re making great progress!” And because she knows that I will never lie to her, she knows that I’m not just saying that to spare her feelings; I really mean it. And so my compliment sinks into her heart, and she feels really encouraged. And so she enjoys coming to the gym, rather than its being a chore.

    By the way, I’m the same way as you with regards to tact, which I also struggle with: I have to remind myself that it is NOT lying to omit information that would be hurtful AND would not be necessary to communicate. (It can be lying to omit information that WOULD be necessary). For example, if I have a coworker whom I really don’t like, it would be completely unnecessary to tell him, “You know, I don’t really like you.” That serves no purpose but to hurt his feelings, for no good reason. Or let’s say your elderly aunt gives you a really horrible-looking (but warm) sweater for Christmas, that she knitted herself. The tactful thing is to find something true to say, like, “Oh thank you, Aunt Gertrude. I can see that you put a lot of effort into knitting this. That means a lot to me! And wow, it’s so warm! You know, my apartment is often cold, so having a warm sweater like this is really handy.” The information that the sweater looks horrible, while true, would serve no purpose to communicate to her, and it’s NOT lying to leave it out. If she asks you directly, of course, you will have to tell her. But even there, you can find kind ways to say it, like “Well, I have to admit that puce isn’t my favorite color” rather than “No, it looks awful”. But you shouldn’t claim that you like its looks if you really don’t, because that just sets you up for an easier time rationalizing the next time you’re tempted to lie.

  10. Yggdrasil says:

    @ Robert Munn

    “The justification you present for telling your (hypothetical) wife the falsehood “You are not fat to me” is dangerous. (Note that in this hypothetical, it is a falsehood to tell your wife that she doesn’t look fat to you, because she’s very overweight. If it were a matter of ten pounds, then you might be able to truthfully tell her that she doesn’t look fat to you — but in this scenario, she is undeniably fat and the question is how you answer her given that fact).”

    How would you know what looks “fat” to me? In our society, “fat” is a pejorative term. Look at how artists of the Renaissance portrayed beautiful women and you will notice that, what in our time would be considered a fat woman, is presented as the ideal of female beauty.

    But, putting that aside and even if we agree that a woman who by modern standards is overweight, the question is whether telling your overweight wife she is not fat is a sin. I contend that, by the Gospel definition of sin, the answer depends on what is in your heart when you say she is not.

    “Two things will happen in that scenario:

    “1) You will make it slightly easier for you to justify the next time you tell someone a falsehood, because ‘it’s for their own good’. And next time, there may be a little bit of self-serving mixed in with your motivations, like ‘If I upset my wife, she’s going to be crying the whole time we drive home, and I won’t enjoy that at all.’ And next the time after that that you’re tempted to tell a falsehood, there might even be a little bit more self-serving in your motivations. This kind of subtle, ‘Oh, it’s okay just this once’ is how LOTS of people slide into outright sin. It’s not healthy for your soul.'”

    Again, the question is not whether telling your overweight wife that she is not fat is a “falsehood,” the question is, is it a sin? I contend that, whether it is or not depends on your motivation.

    “2) Your wife will know that you just lied to her. She knows she’s fat; she can see it every time she looks in the mirror. So she’ll learn that you are willing to lie to her to spare her feelings — which will be harmful to her in the long run. Because let’s say that she actually manages to do something about her weight: she starts lifting weights and reducing her sugar intake, and after a couple of years of sustained effort she’s down to merely plump instead of fat. (Yes, not many people manage to sustain that kind of effort, but some genuinely do.) And now she wants to know whether you have noticed the change in her, and whether you feel more attracted to her than before. But now you have a real problem, because when you tell her, ‘Yes, honey, you look great,’ she already knows you’re willing to lie to her to spare her feelings, so she can’t believe you now. She wants to believe you, but there’s a small voice in her head that’s saying, ‘Yes, but he’s probably just saying that to make me feel better. He doesn’t really believe it.’ And who put that voice in there? You did, when you lied to her ‘to spare her feelings’ earlier. By being ‘nice’ when she was fat, you were actually unkind in the long run, because now when she could really use an ‘attagirl’ from you, she can’t believe the one you gave her.”

    Once again, the question is if you sinned when you told her that she did not look fat to you when she was overweight by modern standards and, once again, I believe that the answer depends on what was in your heart when you answered. You can present any number of situations and predict any number of outcomes but they are irrelevant to that question.

    “When my wife and I were dating, I made sure that she knew that if she ever asked me if she looked fat, I would give her an honest answer. But you know what that means? Now, when we’re at the gym and I give her a compliment on how her strength is improving, she knows I mean it. I don’t tell her, ‘Wow, you’re strong!’ She knows that she’s the weakest person at the gym, because she can see what weight the other people are lifting. So she would know that that was a lie if I told her that. But she’s also a lot further along than she was six months ago, and I want her to feel good about that fact — so I tell her, ‘See the weight you just lifted? Remember six months ago when you were struggling to lift half as much weight as that? You’re making great progress!’ And because she knows that I will never lie to her, she knows that I’m not just saying that to spare her feelings; I really mean it. And so my compliment sinks into her heart, and she feels really encouraged. And so she enjoys coming to the gym, rather than its being a chore.”

    Good for you. It sounds like you and your wife have a good relationship and that she is the kind of person who can accept negative comments about her appearance with equanimity. But all women are not like that and I think a loving husband should be sensitive to his wife’s feelings. If calling her fat makes her feel less loved, I believe that you should avoid saying it. But, again, the question is if your answer is sinful and I believe that God will judge you by what is in your heart when you answer, not whether others would call her fat or not.

    “By the way, I’m the same way as you with regards to tact, which I also struggle with: I have to remind myself that it is NOT lying to omit information that would be hurtful AND would not be necessary to communicate. (It can be lying to omit information that WOULD be necessary). For example, if I have a coworker whom I really don’t like, it would be completely unnecessary to tell him, “’You know, I don’t really like you.’ That serves no purpose but to hurt his feelings, for no good reason. Or let’s say your elderly aunt gives you a really horrible-looking (but warm) sweater for Christmas, that she knitted herself. The tactful thing is to find something true to say, like, ‘Oh thank you, Aunt Gertrude. I can see that you put a lot of effort into knitting this. That means a lot to me! And wow, it’s so warm! You know, my apartment is often cold, so having a warm sweater like this is really handy.’ The information that the sweater looks horrible, while true, would serve no purpose to communicate to her, and it’s NOT lying to leave it out. If she asks you directly, of course, you will have to tell her. But even there, you can find kind ways to say it, like ‘Well, I have to admit that puce isn’t my favorite color’ rather than ‘No, it looks awful’. But you shouldn’t claim that you like its looks if you really don’t, because that just sets you up for an easier time rationalizing the next time you’re tempted to lie.’

    I agree that, from the stand point of maintaining good relations with one’s friends and loved ones, it is good to be tactful. But, as you’ve just demonstrated, being tactful does not require one to lie. I have received many gifts in my life that were not what I wanted but I appreciated them nevertheless and I don’t think the Lord thinks any less of me for expressing my appreciation for them. Rather, I think that by expressing gratitude, I reflect in some small way the love of Christ. We give the Lord our gifts, pathetic as they are, and he loves us for them. If we are Christians, how can we not accept the gift of others with genuine gratitude?

    Thanks for your thoughtful response.

  11. Robin Munn says:

    But the danger stems from the fact that you are speaking something you know to be false. Whether or not it’s a sin is irrelevant to what I’m arguing. I do believe that it is probably a sin, but even if you’re right that it isn’t, I’m saying it’s a bad idea. About the only time that lying to your wife, or your friends, doesn’t take a step down a slippery slope is when you’re, say, lying to them about why you’ve invited them over (when the real reason is the surprise birthday party that you and their other friends have organized). That kind of thing doesn’t do anything to destroy trust. But outright lies to spare your wife’s feelings are just not a good idea in the long run. They undermine her trust in you, and they will make it easier and easier for you to lie the next time you think it might be “necessary”, which will eventually lead you to lying in situations where it clearly is sinful.

    And actually, my wife is quite sensitive; I could bruise her easily with poorly-chosen words. So I still use tact in how I communicate truths that she might not want to hear (but that she needs to hear). But yes, I did choose a wife who can handle hearing the truth. (Which is no accident — that time I mentioned while we were dating, when I told her that if she ever asked me if she was fat, I would tell her the truth… that was one of the many times I tested her character while we were dating. If she had reacted badly to that idea, that would have been a red flag — and too many of those red flags, and I wouldn’t have married her. But she passed that test with flying colors.) I agree that it’s important to be sensitive to your wife’s feelings, and to communicate things to her in a way that she can hear. Part and parcel of following 1 Peter 3:7 is to be aware of how your particular wife can best receive bad news, or constructive criticism, or things she’d rather not hear. That can mean putting off giving her an answer until a later time. But I do not think it is ever the course of wisdom to tell her something that is the opposite of the truth, like telling her that she doesn’t look fat when in fact she does.

    And BTW, your question of “How would you know what looks “fat” to me?” is irrelevant, as is the fact that plump people were considered attractive in the Renaissance Era. The hypothetical we’re considering is one where the wife IS clearly, visibly not plump but just plain fat, and both she and the husband know it.

  12. Yggdrasil says:

    “Whether or not it’s a sin is irrelevant to what I’m arguing.”

    My reason for commenting on this article was that I do not believe it to be evil or sinful to tell your wife she is not fat. I have no interest in debating whether it is a good or bad idea.

  13. shredifier says:

    Thanks for your reply 😄 I understand where you’re coming from

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