Nice ≠ Kind

Niceness holds substantial currency among some circles, even and perhaps especially, within Christian circles. And it seems the only time its okay not to be nice, is if you are reproving someone for not being nice.

Many of us cringe at the idea of someone indicting us of not being nice.

Historically speaking, the word ‘nice’ has morphed considerably from its original etymology. ‘Nice’ derived from Latin nescius, meaning ‘ignorant’; introduced around the 13th Century as a term for ‘foolish’, ‘stupid’ or ‘silly’. It continued to hold a negative connotation to include descriptors such as ‘wantonness, ‘extravagance’, and ‘ostentation’, as well as ‘cowardice’ and ‘sloth’. It would move on to mean ‘fussy and fastidious’ and then ‘dainty or delicate’ by the 14th Century. By the 15th Century it became ‘precise and careful’. By 1769 it had transformed into ‘agreeable and delightful’; ‘kind and thoughtful’ by 1830. And by 1926, Henry Watson Fowler would declare, “too great a favorite with the ladies, who have charmed out of it all of its individuality and converted it into a mere diffuser of vague and mild agreeableness. And today, almost a century later, ‘nice’ means ‘pleasing, agreeable, and delightful’. {1,2}

While growing up many of us were told by well-meaning adults, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

But is that Biblical?


He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” ~ Micah 6:8

{Lexicon: kindness – ‘checed’ means goodness, faithfulness}3

To be clear, harshness or rancor is not Biblical either.

Nice is often a cheap alternative to genuine kindness which requires Biblical love for others.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” ~ Romans 12:9

Nice requires very little of us and invests very little in others. Being nice to escape conflict or confrontation is no less a dereliction of duty for a Christian than to refuse truth, love and encouragement to one another.

Going along to get along is often the fear of man. A desire not to lose face.

However, Biblical kindness, a fruit of the spirit, is not the same as niceness.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23

{Lexicon: kindness – chrēstotēs means moral goodness, integrity}4

Biblical kindness operates within the parameters set forth in Scripture. Its basis is Love. Love is defined in relationship to the revelation of God’s Word. And Biblical Love is giving. Even to the point of death.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” ~ John 15:13

Niceness is generally derived from a self orientation where as kindness is derived from a Love of God and for others.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” ~ Ephesians 4:32

{Lexicon: kind – chrēstos means fit, fit for use, useful, virtuous, good}5

Kindness includes forgiveness, patience, protectiveness, hope and gentleness. But it also includes the willingness to say and do the difficult things. It requires speaking the truth in love. An unwavering faithfulness to the Lord and His Word.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” ~ Proverbs 27:6

It would be unwise to equate kindness with cowardice. Christ’s kindness was inimitable yet he was the epitome of indomitable. If you are a Christian, that Spirit, possessing both of these traits, resides in you.

“Where is the charity of keeping back any portion of God’s Truth? He is the kindest friend who tells me the whole extent of my danger.” ~ JC Ryle

Don’t be misled by the spurious notion of ‘nice’. We are exhorted to loving kindness. May we strive for nothing less.

“The honor of Jesus demands both a soft heart and a titanium spine.” ~ Pastor Joe Holland








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