A friend once told me he was being nice to me and that he didn’t really like me, despite evidence proving the latter. To this day, this is sort of an “agree to disagree” idea with us. Kind of like Ross and Rachel disagreeing about being on a break. I could give an 18 page speech (front and back) arguing my case and he would sleep through it. I digress. The reason I found it so offensive that someone I called a friend was “being nice” to me was because I have always associated it with being fake.
When I was growing up, being an only child, I would be drawn to spend time alone. And when we had guests, mum would tell me to be nice to them. And I would. I wouldn’t want to, but I would. I would smile and play with their kids. I would serve them tea and biscuits. I would be the perfect host. I didn’t want to, but I did. I probably wanted to throw biscuits at them, but I didn’t. I was being nice. Being someone on the outside that I really didn’t want to be on the inside.
There is nothing wrong with being a nice person. Someone can tell me I’m a nice person, and I would feel warm and fuzzy inside. But someone telling me to be nice to someone and I feel the fake smile come on as if on cue. Maybe God saw this coming and told us to “love” instead.
The reason I bring these two wildly similar yet opposite notions into comparison is because I feel a lot of us being nice rather than being loving in church. And by us, I mean me, mostly. I’m a socially awkward adult who is also an introvert. Everything I’ve learned about socializing has taken me twice the effort it takes a normal person to learn. And quadruple the time it takes for them to learn it. I’d learned early on that I can get away from the stares I get for being an introvert or socially awkward, if I can just fake my way through it. So I smiled. I asked how they’re doing. Although, to be honest, I’m pretty much stumped after that. Where does the conversation go after that?
Over time, as I grew spiritually, I’ve learned that for me to really be nice, I need to love them first. I couldn’t smile and welcome them if I didn’t at least like them first. But how do you love people you meet once a week and know little about? As yourself, Jesus says. That’s tricky. I love myself more than anyone else on this planet. In fact, I live in my own little universe and everything and everybody else revolves around me and my needs. I can’t have 50 other little universes, can I? It sounds ridiculous. And sounds like it would take an awful lot of juggling between universes.
There, in the thoughts of overwhelming amounts of universes, I found the true meaning of what God was trying to say to me. It may seem obvious to some of you, but like I said, I take quadruple the time it takes for a normal person to learn. Consider this:
You meet someone really wonderful and fall in love. You notice and quickly overlook each other’s flaws. You consult each other about when to meet up. You’re distracted by thoughts about them. You find yourself thinking about them every time you happen to notice something beautiful, like a scenic spot, a good book or a great movie. You wonder if they’d like it too. You can’t wait to meet and spend time together, even though you’ve been texting each other all day. You grow to love their family and get along with their friends. You feel them becoming a huge part of your life.
Now, consider that “someone” being Jesus. Everything in your life now revolves around him. Everything he loves, you’ve learned to love. Everything he does, you do. Everyone he loves, you learn to love.
It gets easier to love people when you’ve started to love the person who created them. Christianity isn’t a religion. It is love relationship between the Creator and the created. As long as it is a love story, we can see ourselves being loving to everyone. If it is a religion to you, you will find it taxing to love and will resort to being nice instead.
I spent most of my life thinking of Christianity as a religion and thus ended up having to fake niceness to people. I would try to hide my flaws from people so they wouldn’t judge me. I would hide my hurt and pain and take a deep breath to fix my smile. Once I discovered the relationship aspect and found myself being an enormous part of a love story, I started to see God as someone who loves rather than someone who dominates. I started to see myself as loved rather than an awkward piece of worthless creation. This opened my eyes to see others as deserving of love. Once I realized that despite being incredibly flawed, I am unconditionally loved, I began to understand what loving others as myself meant. If despite my flaws, I can be loved, so can everyone else. After all, isn’t LOVE the basic principle of Christianity?