By Mark A. Taylor
“Wow, it seems like Niceville is a place all of us would like to visit these days.”
The radio host made a joke about the name of the Florida town where the call-in questioner lived. She was responding to a panel of newspaper reporters who had just commented on the unprecedented bitterness and divisiveness of the current U.S. presidential campaign.
“Family members aren’t talking to each other,” another said. “People are shutting down their Facebook pages or blocking posts from Facebook friends.”
We’d like to think all the rancor is confined to non-Christians. But soon after that conversation took place, Jeff Thackston, missionary to Nicaragua, posted this comment on his Facebook page:
“Within 15 minutes on Facebook, I witnessed one friend say that anyone who votes for Hillary is not a Christian and another state that all Trump supporters are brainwashed minions of the Anti-Christ. . . . Have we forgotten that those of us who are Christians are not to be conformed to this world?”
But the fact is that even the world has recognized a better way than acrimony, anger, and animosity. “Nice People Really Do Have More Fun” read The Wall Street Journal headline above an opinion piece by Arthur C. Brooks last week.
“Notwithstanding the prominent examples today in political and popular culture, the best available research still clearly shows that in everyday life the nice people, not the creeps, do the best at work, in love and in happiness,” he wrote.
And then he quoted findings from the Journal of Applied Psychology to say nice people perform “significantly better than others in performance reviews by senior supervisors.” Scholars from the University of South Carolina conducted an experiment in which nice guys turned out to be more attractive to women than jerks. And two British researchers reporting in the Journal of Social Psychology found that “kind acts, systematically deployed” make the perpetrators happier.
So, even without exhortation from preachers on Facebook, all of us could conclude that snarling won’t get us near as far as smiling, that nastiness will never bring—for us or our causes—the benefits that come from being nice.
For Christians, it’s too bad we need sociologists and psychologists to point out what we could have taken to heart from the Scripture’s teachings alone.
Some of us have memorized Paul’s fruit of the Spirit list: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22, 23). Granted, these qualities together are about much more than “nice,” but niceness is certainly a part of that picture. Elsewhere the apostle tells Christians to “clothe” themselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Wouldn’t anyone obeying his command have shined in any of the research projects cited above?
The Proverbs are full of prods toward kindness, and one of them seems like particularly good advice for politicians as well as everyday people just trying to cope. “Those who are kind benefit themselves,” says the Scripture, “but the cruel bring ruin on themselves” (Proverbs 11:17).
Post that on Facebook so it will pop up on your page later as a “memory.” It will be interesting to see how it’s going a year or two from now for whomever becomes president this November.