Are You Good or Just Nice?
Is there any difference between being good and being nice? Does it matter whether you are one or the other?
Most people strive to be good. But some feel ambivalent about being nice. As they say, “Nice guys finish last.” The morality of being nice may have even more serious consequences for us as a civilization.
What does it mean to be nice? Is it different from being good? The goal of being nice is to make other people feel good, doing our best not to rock the boat, or stir up the pot. Now that our country is so polarized politically and socially, we should all try to be nice. But there is a fatal flaw in this approach to social interaction: whatever makes us feel good is not necessarily what is actually good for us.
Many people are nice because they are kind at heart. But fear of others can play a role here and often does. There are problems to be dealt with, but they go on being unaddressed because we don’t like confrontation. We all know what it’s like to fake peace.
Should we be concerned that the ethic of being nice—a.k.a. political correctness—seems to be the ethic of the day? Our individual feelings have become the ultimate judge of good and evil. Can this be good for our civilization?
How is being good different from being nice? To be good is to uphold that which is good. When applied to social interaction, it is to help others become good rather than just feel good. This takes courage because people don’t like what is actually good for them at times. Ask any parent who tries to cultivate good habits in their children—like making their beds in the morning and cleaning after themselves and not lying when they are in trouble, etc.
But do we know what is good? Can we be certain about that? Many see morality as a social consensus. This is true on many moral issues. We know it’s not good to murder, rape, steal, lie, or be selfish and greedy. But what about such controversial issues as abortion, gender identity, capitalism, socialism, etc.? People can’t have debates on these issues without their emotions running high on both sides. Can such ideas of good and evil be decided by voting and enacted as law?
When we survey history, it is when things get bad and resources get sparse that racism and discrimination and other social evils raise their ugly heads. The morality of the Nazi regime was a social consensus. What if you found yourself to be where the Jews were and there were no moral absolutes to affirm your dignity and right as a human being? What is perfectly legal may not be moral.
Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18). God did not become good. The idea of goodness doesn’t exist independently of God. Goodness is eternally God’s essential attribute. As finite and self-centered beings, we cannot truly know what is good and evil. We need a God of infinite knowledge, wisdom, and goodness to reveal it to us. God has done that through His Word, the Bible.
Because God is good, He desires us to have communion with Him: “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8)! Rejecting God, who is the essence and fullness of all that is good, can only lead to suffering and misery—partially now and eternally after we die. As a good God, He must uphold goodness and execute justice.
But He also provided a way of salvation—Jesus Christ: “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6). This salvation is yours if you trust Jesus as your Savior. This assurance will enable you to do what is truly good rather than just be nice in fear of others.