Being Nice Does Not Mean Being Kind

In recent days, I have thought about what it means to be NICE.  Interestingly, my reflection did not have its start as a result of negativity—what seems to be a notable increase of incivility in society; nor was it prompted by the latest political battles fought front and center in most of our living rooms over the past few weeks, with some continuing still.

Rather, my reflection on what it means to be nice began with two quite surprising promptings in which I was rewarded simply for being nice.  (So I was told.)

The Upgrade to Luxury

When arriving at the Indianapolis airport and approaching the car rental attendant in the airport garage, I was asked if I would wait a minute while she served the customer ahead of me.  “Sure,” I replied with all sincerity.  After all, the customer, who had been on the same plane as I, had arrived at the lot just ahead of me, and he was a very well-decorated officer in the Army.  (Even as a civilian, I felt quite outranked.)  Besides, I was in no hurry.  When the attendant returned, she thanked me for waiting and as we headed toward my very economical model, we engaged in good conversation and shared a couple of laughs.  About midway down the garage, she turned to me, and said, “You have been soooo nice and waited patiently while I attended to the first customer; I am going to upgrade you to a better model of car.”  Really?  My wait was only about 1-2 minutes, and deservingly so.  The upgrade—a brand new car with fewer than 100 miles—was equitable to the luxury level of car rentals, and must have been available to rent for several dollars more than what I paid for my economy compact model.  As she opened the door, inserted the key, and turned the ignition, I thanked her for the upgrade and drove away a bit perplexed but joyful.

Discount for Waiting

Later, that same week and in another state, I was checking out at the register in the women’s fashion area of a well-known department store.  I had laid my merchandise on the counter when the clerk asked if I would wait a moment while she helped answer another customer’s question.  “Sure,” I said agreeably.  (Sound familiar?)  The clerk returned almost immediately—a few seconds at most—and began ringing my purchase.  We engaged in cordial conversation and, as the total was tallied, she said, “Since you have been soooo NICE, and waited patiently while I helped the other customer, I am going to give you access to a special discount coupon on your purchases today.”  Really?   Somehow, I didn’t feel so deserving of such monetary graciousness but said “Thank you, I appreciate that,” and I walked away joyfully.

When reflecting on those two events, and others since, different thoughts have come to mind:

  • Mom would be proud of me…her late 50’s+ something daughter had listened to those teachable moments. After all, “Be nice!” was one of her favorite recurring phrases during my childhood, though sometimes she did say it in a scolding-fashion to me and my two younger sisters.
  • Obviously, those two customer service representatives couldn’t extend such generous offers to everyone. So, does that suggest that most customers are not so kind or are even hateful to them?  Was I that much of a rarity of a customer?
  • My ego (and wallet) tried to influence my reflective thought with the suggestion of making a badge that reads “I AM NICE!” – just in case others in the world didn’t know it, and I would wear it honorably and proudly. Well, that laughable thought was quite fleeting (in and out of my thoughts in seconds) as my conscience reminded me of times—many more than I care to recall—when I truly do not live up to the label of being nice.

In my search to learn more, I inquired of standard dictionaries and read that nice means “pleasant, agreeable, satisfactory.”  Just satisfactory?  I next searched for Bible verses.  Have you ever searched the Bible for the word nice?  Well, it isn’t there.[1]  What I soon found out is that people often confuse the word ‘nice’ with the word ‘kind’.  And it was in that realization that a most humbling epiphany helped me to know firsthand what rags are displayed on one clothed in mere nicety.

To be kind is to characteristically forebear one another’s burdens, to be mild, benevolent, and empathetic.  It is often associated with mercy and love.

The virtue of kindness is rooted in Scripture, forged on sound Christian theology and modeled over the centuries by followers of Jesus.

Since the early church, disciples have walked the risky and sometimes dangerous road of kindness.  Kindness is a radical way of living biblically.  It’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit on Paul’s short list in Galatians 5.  It’s not a duty or an act.  It’s an imperative. It’s the natural outcome of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives.  We exhale kindness after we inhale what’s been breathed into us by the Spirit.  Kindness radiates when we’re earnest about living the way of Christ, the way of the Spirit.  Kindness displays the wonder of Christ’s love through us. [2]

Each and every day, and especially in the upcoming holiday season, may we hold fast to God’s Word and be kind to one another:

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.

                                                                           Ephesians 4:31-32 (King James Version)


[1] The word nice is infrequently found in three Bible versions of all those cited on the Blue Letter Bible website: New Living Translation (Ecc. 6:9; Isa. 30:10; Jer. 22:30), New American Standard Bible (Jer. 12:6), and the NET (Jos.   7:21; Isa. 30:10).  See

[2] Corey, B. (2017, May 19). The difference between nice and kind—and why it matters. Retrieved from

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