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Why Niceness Weakens Our Witness


Calm

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https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/august-web-only/virtue-vice-why-niceness-weakens-our-witness.html

An interesting perspective...what happens when the desire not to offend becomes a high priority?

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After observing the fruit of this false idol in my own life, here’s what I have concluded: I cannot follow Jesus and be nice. Not equally. Because following Jesus means following someone who spoke hard and confusing truths, who was honest with his disciples—even when it hurt—who condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and turned over tables in the temple. Jesus was a man who went face-to-face with the devil himself and died on a cross rather than succumb to the status quo.

We exist in a world that swings between sweetness and outrage, two behaviors that seem to be at odds with one another. In reality, they are two sides of the same coin: a lack of spiritual formation. When our civility isn’t rooted in something sturdy and deep, when our good behavior isn’t springing from the core of who we are but is instead merely a mask we put on, it is only a matter of time before the façade crumbles away and our true state is revealed: an entire generation of people who are really good at looking good.

The solution, however, is not to trade in our appearance of niceness for an appearance of boldness. We have to go deeper into Christ.

Jesus was loving. He was gracious. He was forgiving. He was kind. But he was not nice. He was a man who would leave the 99 sheep to rescue the one, but he was also totally unafraid of offending people. Jesus understood the difference between graciousness and personal compromise, between speaking truth and needlessly alienating people. Rather than wear a shiny veneer, he became the embodiment of rugged love. This, not niceness, is what we are called to.

 

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2 hours ago, Calm said:

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/august-web-only/virtue-vice-why-niceness-weakens-our-witness.html

An interesting perspective...what happens when the desire not to offend becomes a high priority?

 

Does this have to do with The Nicene Creed? :) 

Of course, "nice" can be taken in many ways. I think Jesus was authentically nice when He had to be, and authentically unpleasant when He had to be, but always charitable. His behaviors were driven by His choice to follow His Father's will.

The rest of us mortals are vulnerable to compromising our spirituality for the sake of winning, which is enmity, pride and the spirit of contention, and even resort to the techniques of Sherem. Nehor and Korihor in countering the critic.

Edited by CV75
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5 minutes ago, CV75 said:

The rest of us mortals are vulnerable to compromising our spirituality for the sake of winning, which is enmity, pride and the spirit of contention, and even resort to the techniques of Sherem. Nehor and Korihor in countering the critic.

And vulnerable to keeping our mouths shut, giving up, and saying nothing or even agreeing in order to be seen as part of the in crowd. 

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10 minutes ago, MiserereNobis said:

I agree, and for the life of me I don't understand why we Catholics got rid of the inquisition... ;) 

It is still around. You just rebranded for marketing purposes.

Last I heard it was "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" I think. I suppose I could Google it. Yep, got it close.

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23 minutes ago, The Nehor said:

It is still around. You just rebranded for marketing purposes.

Last I heard it was "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" I think. I suppose I could Google it. Yep, got it close.

I know. It was way cooler when it was called the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.

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7 minutes ago, MiserereNobis said:

I know. It was way cooler when it was called the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.

Yeah.

"Some may question your right to destroy ten billion people. Those who understand know that you have no right to let them live."

Okay, I may have crossed into fiction there.....sorry.

Edited by The Nehor
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The article on niceness is not as persuasive to me as Pres. Eyring's comments to FARMS several years ago.

"Because you know that the value of your work lies less in convincing and more in inviting people to seek truth by prayer, you have exemplified another virtue. You have tried to be models of kindness in your dialogue with others, especially with those with whom you disagree. You know that a spirit of contention will drive away the very influence by which they can know truth. That has led you to shun ridicule. It has led you to avoid the temptation of playing to the already converted, seeking their applause by trying to make your adversary appear the fool. It is easy to gain the laughter of an appreciative crowd who delight to see the truth defended with boldness and strength, but you have remembered that the heart you wish to touch may hear derision in that laughter and so turn away. Your civility and gentleness could bless all associations of scholars, whatever they may be studying together.”

Henry B. Eyring, "The Marketplace of Ideas," an address delivered to the annual FARMS banquet, 13 October, 1994.

I expressed similar ideas in my presentation "More Effective Apologetics" at the 2016 FairMormon Conference. I regret that the current leadership has taken a different path with the This Is The Show videos, which I fear will undermine all the good work that FairMormon has done over the years.

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Grant, quick question. Have you watched the videos yourself or are you relying on reports of others?

We (I am a member of FM) have had a number write in who haven’t actually watched them and it has made me curious now if someone is criticizing because of their personal view of the videos or because they see an effect on others.  I don’t see the latter concern as invalid, just different. 

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28 minutes ago, Grant Hardy said:

"Because you know that the value of your work lies less in convincing and more in inviting people to seek truth by prayer, you have exemplified another virtue. You have tried to be models of kindness in your dialogue with others, especially with those with whom you disagree. You know that a spirit of contention will drive away the very influence by which they can know truth. That has led you to shun ridicule. It has led you to avoid the temptation of playing to the already converted, seeking their applause by trying to make your adversary appear the fool. It is easy to gain the laughter of an appreciative crowd who delight to see the truth defended with boldness and strength, but you have remembered that the heart you wish to touch may hear derision in that laughter and so turn away. Your civility and gentleness could bless all associations of scholars, whatever they may be studying together.”

Very well said.

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1 hour ago, Calm said:

And vulnerable to keeping our mouths shut, giving up, and saying nothing or even agreeing in order to be seen as part of the in crowd. 

Thanks for adding that -- I was still in "aplogetic"mode from the other threads! 

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Jesus was loving. He was gracious. He was forgiving. He was kind. But he was not nice. He was a man who would leave the 99 sheep to rescue the one, but he was also totally unafraid of offending people. Jesus understood the difference between graciousness and personal compromise, between speaking truth and needlessly alienating people. Rather than wear a shiny veneer, he became the embodiment of rugged love. This, not niceness, is what we are called to.

The article is quite right in that niceness for its own sake can be a problem. I tend to think that if a desire to appear respectable constrains one's witness, then the situation is effectively the same as that of the Pharisees praying loudly on a street corner: "ye have your reward." 

However, President Eyring is also right in that stereotypical "niceness" can be a useful stance with which to approach critical dialogue. Admittedly, Jesus Christ did not approach it in this way, but I'm not sure how relevant that is for our time. I don't buy the argument that "Jesus had perfect judgement and we don't, so we should refrain from His sharpness." Jesus had perfectly superior judgement to us but He also told us to follow His example, which He set deliberately, and He did command to make righteous judgements. But I do think that our standards for rhetorical effectiveness today are different than they were in first-century Israel and I'm not sure that Jesus would use the same approach if His ministry were today. 

That being said, if I'm going to judge by the acceptable rhetorical standards, then maybe Kwaku has a point, at least when he's talking to Gen Z. I admit the videos resound with me a bit. I can see why these videos would appeal to Gen Zers like me. The generation raised on Twitter and TikTok will likely react to rhetorical tactics in different ways then our more patient predecessors. 

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I have watched them myself (they're not that long) and I was taken aback at their mocking, derisive, sophomoric tone. I realize that I am not the target audience, and I understand the desire to appeal to young people, but I would not recommend abandoning basic Christian values to do so. I did not find the videos to be "virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy" and I doubt that many people--young or old--who are earnestly seeking after such things will find This is The Show satisfying.

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4 minutes ago, Grant Hardy said:

I have watched them myself (they're not that long) and I was taken aback at their mocking, derisive, sophomoric tone. I realize that I am not the target audience, and I understand the desire to appeal to young people, but I would not recommend abandoning basic Christian values to do so. I did not find the videos to be "virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy" and I doubt that many people--young or old--who are earnestly seeking after such things will find This is The Show satisfying.

I agree with you, Grant. I've shared my concerns with FAIR on Twitter, and they seem to have immediately become quite defensive about it. I don't think this bodes well.

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3 hours ago, Dan McClellan said:

saying "he was kind, but he was not nice" is just silly. Those are synonyms. 

Perhaps a better way of putting it would be to say that the Savior wasn't enabling of bad behavior.

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1 hour ago, MiserereNobis said:

I know. It was way cooler when it was called the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition.

I wasn't expecting someone to mention the inquisition.

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Harshness and niceness both have their place. Harsh words directed toward me have, several times, been exactly what I needed and helped me greatly. The harsh words that helped me, though, came without exception from people that I already knew loved me and would continue to love me regardless. 

In the typical context of sharing or defending the gospel, I think harshness tends to backfire and alienate people. Truth can usually be shared with civility and kindness. Hard, unvarnished words are sometimes necessary, but I think we tend to overestimate just how often they're needed.

 

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I agree that superficial and disingenuous "nice" masks are not helpful.  These types of people often become doormats and lack the confidence and integrity to speak up for what they believe.  But I feel strongly that we should all strive to be kind and nice to others as we share our beliefs.  Being nice does not mean that we have to be a pushover.  I believe that one can be forthright and embrace the spirit of niceness/kindness.  As the cliché goes, "one can disagree without being disagreeable."   Without striving for kindness and niceness, it is all too easy for the spirit of contention (which we all know is "of the devil") to enter in.  I believe that contention will naturally flow unless we actively put up hedges of kindness/niceness and repent daily in our shortcomings. 

I have frequently heard Christ used as justification for being contentious, unkind, and flat out not nice.  That has never sat well with me.  As I said in another thread:

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We cannot justify our offensive and unkind words because of Christ's harsh denunciation of the Pharisees.   Christ had abilities to see the heart and judge in ways that we are incapable of.  He was justified in judging others while commanding us not to.  He was justified in condemning others while commanding us not to.  Christ was justified in not forgiving others, but he commanded us to forgive all.  Christ was therefore justified in his remarks, but we have no such justification.  On the contrary we have been commanded by both ancient and modern prophets to use our tongue differently.  That is something that we should all aspire to (heaven knows I need work) and should not sustain those who mock others and are generally mean-spirited in defense of our faith. 

The will of the Lord in this regard seems overwhelmingly clear:

 2 Tim 2:23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,25IN MEEKNESS instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

James 4:11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:1–3, 29, 31–32.)

Titus 3:2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

“Be swift to hear, [but] slow to speak.” (James 1:19.)

“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, … this man’s religion is vain. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” (James 1:26; James 3:2.)

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.” (D&C 121:41–42.)

Colossians 3:12Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

James 3:13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.—16For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.—31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

 

I have not personally watched the This is the Place videos, and am not commenting on those per se.  I have only read second hand comments on them.  Thank you Grant for the wonderful quote from President Eyring.  I love that! 

Here are some synonyms for nice (it is hard for me to see what is wrong with them):

cordial
ducky
fair
friendly
good
kind
lovely
okay
superior
swell
welcome
winning
admirable
amiable
approved
attractive
becoming
charming
commendable
considerate
copacetic
courteous
decorous
delightful
favorable
fine and dandy
genial
gentle
gracious
helpful
ingratiating
inviting
kindly
nifty
obliging
peachy
pleasant
pleasurable
polite
prepossessing
seemly
simpatico
unpresumptuous
well-mannered
winsome

Antonyms for nice (it is hard for me to see what is right with them -except for cool...Tony Hawk was cool:))

aloof
bad
cool
disagreeable
mean
ugly
unacceptable
unfriendly
unpleasant
unsociable
unsuitable
disordered
horrible
imprecise
nasty
repulsive
unlikable
unmannerly
unrefined

Edited by pogi
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1 hour ago, The Nehor said:

Yeah.

"Some may question your right to destroy ten billion people. Those who understand know that you have no right to let them live."

Okay, I may have crossed into fiction there.....sorry.

I just called 911.

 

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29 minutes ago, Grant Hardy said:

I have watched them myself (they're not that long) and I was taken aback at their mocking, derisive, sophomoric tone. I realize that I am not the target audience, and I understand the desire to appeal to young people, but I would not recommend abandoning basic Christian values to do so. I did not find the videos to be "virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy" and I doubt that many people--young or old--who are earnestly seeking after such things will find This is The Show satisfying.

Thanks for the clarification. 

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25 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

they seem to have immediately become quite defensive about it

It depends on who you talk to. :) 

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I cannot follow Jesus and be nice. Not equally. Because following Jesus means following someone who spoke hard and confusing truths, who was honest with his disciples—even when it hurt—who condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and turned over tables in the temple.

It's been several months now, but I'm pretty sure I remember hearing some fellow on a Christian talk radio show advocate something along these lines - I believe he had written a book about the same.

I thought it was kind of gimmicky, at least in the way it was being presented.

It makes it sound like you are saying something controversial about Jesus.

When I think of someone who is 'not nice,' I think of someone who is mean - not somebody who loves you unconditionally and wants you to live in a state of indescribable happiness but will also not lie to you just to preserve your feelings. 

So, sorry if the author of the article disagrees or takes offence, but in my book Jesus is pretty much the very definition of what it means to be a nice guy. 

 

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