Nice Girls.

nice girls 3I plucked my eyebrows knowing my mother told me that I could not. She asked, sitting across from me at lunch, “Nina, did you pluck your eyebrows?”

“No,” I lied. I am not a good liar in general, let alone when it comes to my parents. I remember the first lie I ever told my dad. I told them the first time I kissed a boy, when I had my first drink. I am an oversharer, not a liar. But in fifth grade I lied, trying to blink at my mother, like some deformed fish.

“I can see the redness where you plucked,” my mother hissed at me across the table and then she laughed at me. “They aren’t even!”

At school, the girls asked me if I had done something to my face. “Nope,” I told them. I understand that you may not believe me when I say I was not a liar, especially when I just gave you two examples of times I did lie.

“Hmm,” the girls replied and I knew, like my mom, they saw through me.

The next day, I admitted to them that I plucked my eyebrows. “Thank goodness!” they cried. “We’ve been wanting to tell you to do it for so long now.”

So I knew they’d talked about my unibrow behind my back. I was embarrassed in a way I could not pinpoint then and proud that I had done something about my ugliness at that same time. I felt alone, isolated. How long had they kept the secret of my ugliness from me? How many other ugly features did I have for them to talk about?nice girls 2

If you are a woman and you say you have never felt the cutting words of a mean girl, you are lying or very fortunate. But if you are a woman and you say, you’ve never been a mean girl, you are liar. I have to tell you the truth here because there are two types of mean girls–those that thrive on meanness and those that do it out of adolescent fear and loneliness and just sheer appreciation that the herd is not focused on them. Most of us fall in latter category and as for the first, I think there is probably fear involved for them too. I’m just not confident going deep into their psyche when I relate to the latter.

It’s hard for me to remember the moments when I was a mean girl–the time I wrote a letter to a girl who moved away and called my teacher an awful name, a word I never used before aloud in my life, but wrote in the letter just to seem cool. The teacher found it and confronted me, shaking with hurt and anger. I shook with shame. I hurt someone deeply and it still leaves me feeling ashamed.

Still, there were plenty of times when I chose kindness instead. I was raised to be a good kid. I befriended a muslim girl who was abused by other muslims because she did not wear a headscarf or know arabic and yet could not break her way into mainstream popularity either (I use this example because in my mind, this is metaphor for adolescence. You know the phrase you win some you lose some? During puberty, I think most of just lose some).

nice girls 1I was never the “nice girl.” I was kind (most of the time). I was good. I liked to use humor and sarcasm. I was honest (most of the time). Making people laugh is a kindness. It took me a long time to realize, the “nicest” girls were often the meanest.

I’m not here to defend myself. In fact, I didn’t need to tell you any of this. I’ve spent so many years ashamed of the moments when I let fear and my own differences lead to ugliness–how often I cried over the fact that I was the first girl to go through puberty, the first one to wear a bra, the one the boys made fun of and not in the teasing way that crushes do. When I realized I could have a personal relationship with Jesus, my whole world view changed. It continues too.

But I still don’t like the word “nice.” I am not called to be “nice” as a Christian. It’s funny because for so long that’s all I wanted to be, “a nice Christian girl.” Now, I see I am called to be authentic. Nice will forever signify (at least to me now) something superficial. I know plenty of people–Christians and every other box you can tick on a survey–who are nice for the sake of it. See, people say and do things all the time for sake of being “nice.” What I’ve realized is that “nice” can be an idol. When Paul talks about being a servant to all, he says he does it all for the sake of the Gospel. He isn’t trying to be nice at all. He is trying to serve in love by way of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9). When we do things from the heart, nice has nothing to do with it. Love does.

Perhaps the place I have seen the epidemic of nice bother me the most is the church. Part of this is my fault because for a long time I held it to a perfect standard when it is made of imperfect people (including myself). When I was in ministry and now that I am part of a christian blogging community, it’s not the mean people who hurt my feelings. At least they are honest. Most of the time it has been “the nice christian girl.”

But Nina, what’s wrong with being nice?

I’m still figuring it out because my whole life I wished it came easy to me. We have to acknowledge that there is conflict between Christians (and there is conflict…look no further than Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:36-41) these “nice” girls use passive aggressive words and an “xo”, maybe an emoji, to make sure I still think of them as “nice.”

I don’t.

Though Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways I am a big believer that conflict can grow into something beautiful if we let it. God works all things for good, even conflict. Why don’t we get out of our own way?

entrway5I mess up all the time. That’s the thing you have to know. I try my hardest to be authentic. I just told a close friend that the people I struggle the most to be empathetic with are those who are ill informed about the world around them, who choose to not read the news (what would women a hundred years ago say about this privilege!). But hey, God doesn’t say I get to love everyone except those people. So I am working on it and I know he is working on it because he has promised to finish his good work in me (Philippians 1:6).

I don’t want to be thought of as nice. I want to be thought of tenderhearted and brave–both of those things at the same time. The more time I spend online and blogging, the more I realize that maybe those things are incompatible with the word “nice.” In 1 Thessalonians, Paul, Silas, and Timothy thank the Thessalonians for “[their] work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope” (1:2). Nice had nothing to do with it.

When and if I have daughters, I don’t want to use the word nice. I want to use words like tenderhearted, bravery, and courageous in equal measure.

We aren’t called to be nice girls. We are called to love.

The Holy Spirit and I…we’re working on it.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:30-31).”

I’d love to know your thoughts.
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16 thoughts on “Nice Girls.

  1. Cassie

    God is definitely moving in your heart, Nina. 1) those girls were behaving out of FEAR, and fear makes people do some awful things; 2) niceness is definitely an idol, it’s such a socially constructed construct, one that Jesus completely crushes through his actions. “Nice” Christians are what kept me away from Jesus for so long because I just thought they were hypocrites. And they are. We will never be totally “nice” because we are sinful, yet we are hypocrites because we are still working to be more like Jesus (at least we should be). Lovely post my friend.

    1. Nina Post author

      Cassie! I was actually nervous to post this and yours was the first comment I saw. I totally agree with niceness (I kind of held back in the post…sometimes I want to just say it: Jesus was not NICE!) It makes me sad that nice christians kept you away, especially because they are everywhere because it’s taught whether obviously or subtly that we should be nice. Your last sentence hit the nail on the head. I don’t really think Jesus cares if I am nice; he cares about my sanctification and increasing and eventual holiness.

  2. Biana Perez

    Oh gosh – I could relate to this post on a number of levels and I think growing up even a little different from the “norm” is hard!! I love that you shared this and hope to use the same ways to describe my daughter, if I’m lucky to have one!! xo, Biana – BlovedBoston

    1. Nina Post author

      Thanks, Biana. I appreciate you reading it. Kids don’t know how to react to different, I think, and it’s so hard being different from the norm.

  3. Emelia

    You are such a beautiful soul…that’s how I would describe you. I struggled with being the mean girl before, I shouldn’t use the word struggle, because looking back, it wasn’t a struggle…I was depressed and expressed my feelings and emotions really poorly. I never want to be that person ever again so I work hard every day to turn the times I am feeling sad, anxious and mad in to a learning experience. I don’t ever want to be labeled mean or rude, I want people to remember me and think of me in a better light. Excellent post Nina, much love to you!

    1. Nina Post author

      Oh Emelia, thank you. Believe me, I mess up all the freakin time it seems. Thanks for sharing your pov. It puts things in perspective. I have never thought of you but it takes a big person to look inward and figure out the cause and do something about it. xo

  4. chelsea jacobs

    THIS IS SO GOOD. I think focusing on being nice isn’t the issue for me, it’s focusing on what I KNOW is right in my gut. Like, I know it’s not right to be mean to people, but I also know it’s not right to not stand up for myself. There’s a good balance to be found.

    PS, I totally did the same thing with my eyebrows.

    1. Nina Post author

      Agreed on the balance also my mom said to add that she took me to get them waxed and they were fixed. LOL

  5. Rebecca

    This was beautiful, Nina. Growing up as a girl is so hard. Especially in middle school and high school. And I think at some point as we grow older we are taught being “nice” is what is right and we lose out on authentically loving our friends. It’s not always about smiling and saying the things we think people want to hear. Sometimes we have to lovingly say things that might hurt but help our friends grow.

    1. Nina Post author

      I completely agree, Rebecca. I had a whole part about speaking the truth in love but cut it for another time. I guess what sparked this is some people online clearly having issues with me but instead of telling me validly what criticism they have (which I welcome…any boss I’ve ever had will tell you so…it helps me learn) they are passive aggressive and nice and I am over it. No one should be a mean girl. And being a nice girl may help people sleep at night but I don’t think that’s the heart of Jesus. Rant over. 🙂

      1. Rebecca

        I’m not a fan of the passive aggressive either. If people don’t like me (and I certainly don’t expect everyone to) there’s no reason to pretend. I’d much rather spend my time and energy on people that do truly like me for me. I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with people like that!

        1. Nina Post author

          Ha, I’ll be okay. I just feel like passive aggressive people tend to be kind of pervasive in the Christian community. Being direct is still seen as a bad thing sometimes. The truth in love is hard to do. It’s easier to be “nice.”

  6. Jo-Anne

    I knew some mean girls growing up, hated them with a passion………….just saying
    I suck at lying it just shows on my face that I am lying………..so I don’t even bother trying to lie.

  7. Allison

    Your story about plucking your eyebrows reminded me of when I overplucked my brows when I was 14 or 15, and probably went a year before I saw a picture of myself and noticed how uneven they were — and one of my first thoughts was “Why didn’t any of my friends say something??”

    Now I think that, if they noticed, they probably didn’t know how to kindly say anything to me directly. Sometimes I think girls are “mean” because they don’t really know how to relate to each with kindness and understanding — because we’re taught to be “nice” and never say anything mean to someone’s face. My dad always said “It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it,” meaning both you say “nice” words in a mean way, or you can “mean” words in a kind, thoughtful way. I don’t always follow that advice, but most of the time I try my best. Wonderful post!

    1. Nina Post author

      You’re right. There is definitely a learning curve in learning how to relate to each other. Such a good point and makes a lot of sense why middle school includes so much angst! ha. Thank you for reading!

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