You open your Bible to read the familiar words in Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV):
The verse instructs you to be kind, but what exactly does it mean to be kind? Is it the same as being nice? You may strive to be a nice person, yet struggle to show true kindness. Understanding the differences between nice and kind can help you better live out the biblical command to be kind.
As Christians, we are called to reflect God’s character to others. This includes showing love, compassion, and kindness. However, in today’s culture, we often equate kindness with merely being nice. Niceness involves superficial politeness and pleasantries, whereas true kindness runs deeper.
Kindness is an outward expression of love that seeks the wellbeing of others. It is patient, humble, generous, and forgiving. Niceness focuses on appearance and benefits the self, while kindness focuses on connection and benefits others.
In this post, we will explore key differences between nice and kind, including:
- Motivations behind each
- Outward behaviors
- Inward heart condition
- Impact on relationships
- Alignment with biblical values
Gaining clarity on distinctions between nice and kind can help you show genuine Christ-like kindness that goes beyond surface niceties. Our exploration will provide practical insights on how to walk out biblical kindness in your life and relationships.
- Nice prioritizes outward appearance, kindness values authentic connection
- Nice stems from self-focus, kindness stems from other-focused love
- Nice involves superficial politeness, kindness reflects the heart
- Nice avoids trouble or offense, kindness enters into it
- Nice benefits self, kindness benefits others
- Nice is about reception, kindness is about expression
- God calls us to earnest love and compassion, not mere niceness
Nice Prioritizes Appearance, Kindness Values Connection
A nice person strives to be polite, pleasant, and agreeable. They want others to see them as nice. It is focused on outward appearance and perception. Nice people say the right things and avoid controversy to portray themselves positively.
A kind person is concerned less with appearance and more with authentic connection. Kindness is generally quieter and subtler than niceness. Kind people build trust and understanding in relationships. Their gentle sincerity and compassion draw others in.
For example, a nice person may give surface compliments that lack depth, while a kind person gives meaningful encouragement from the heart. A nice person avoids talking politics to keep the peace, whereas a kind person thoughtfully engages in important conversations.
Nice Stems From Self-Focus, Kindness Stems From Love
Nice behavior often comes from a place of self-focus. People are nice when they believe it will benefit them in some way. They want to be seen positively, avoid blame, increase influence, or gain something. Niceness can be driven by selfish aims like pride, comfort, reputation, and worldly success.
Kindness, however, stems from a place of other-focused Christ-like love. Rather than selfishness, kindness flows out of genuine care and concern for others. It is compelled by agape love, compassion, sympathy, patience, and sacrifice.
As 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 explains, love is patient, love is kind, it is not self-seeking. True kindness considers others above self. It follows Jesus’ command to love God and neighbor wholeheartedly (Luke 10:27).
Nice Involves Superficial Politeness, Kindness Reflects The Heart
Nice communicates politeness and pleasantries on a superficial level. Nice people smile, use courteous language, and make pleasant small talk. But true thoughts and feelings are not revealed. Vulnerability and sincerity do not go beyond surface niceties.
Kindness expresses something much deeper than superficial pleasantness. It reflects tenderness, compassion, empathy, and goodwill that reside in the heart. Kind people display steadfast love in their disposition, attitudes, and treatment of others.
As Christians we are called to love “from the heart” and “be devoted to one another in love” (1 Peter 1:22, Romans 12:10). Niceness involves shallow etiquette, but kindness aligns words with an earnest heart of care. Jesus displayed perfect kindness flowing from genuine love.
Nice Avoids Trouble or Offense, Kindness Enters Into It
Nice people carefully avoid controversy, negativity, or offense. They sidestep difficult conversations and withdraw from messy situations. Niceness often dances around issues to keep up a pleasant facade.
Kindness is willing to lean into tension, discord, and wrongs. It gently yet boldly speaks truth. Kindness mercifully engages in hardship. Rather than withdraw, it draws near in these moments with care.
Jesus perfectly displayed this kind of courageous care. Though He was bold and uncompromising with truth, Jesus was also gentle and compassionate with people. As His followers, we too can show brave kindness that humbly stands for truth while loving others well.
Nice Benefits Self, Kindness Benefits Others
As mentioned, nice behavior often provides some personal gain or protection. It benefits oneself. Niceness calculates what is polite or agreeable in order to be respected.
Kindness is displayed without expectation of personal return. It is given freely with only the other’s good in mind. Kindness is selfless, seeking to benefit and bless those around us.
The Bible speaks to kindness being outward focused: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.” (Galatians 6:9-10)
Nice is About Reception, Kindness is About Expression
Nice people are focused on the reception of their niceness. They want positive feedback that their pleasant demeanor is well-received. Niceness pays close attention to impressions made on others.
Kindness pays less attention to outward reception. It simply expresses caring actions and attitudes regardless of people’s responses. Kindness shows steadfast love as Christ modeled, not basing mercy on whether it appears well-received.
Genuine kindness is displayed out of the overflow of a loving heart. It is expressed freely and sincerely, not manipulated to impress others. Our deepest calling is to sincere expressions of Christ’s love.
God Calls Us to Earnest Love, Not Mere Niceness
The Bible never instructs believers to strive for niceness, pleasantness, or agreeableness. These attributes can veil hearts unconcerned with God or others. Rather than artificial niceness, the Scriptures call us to earnest love and compassion.
The person who is kind exemplifies these biblical qualities:
- Patient: Slow to anger, enduring hardship well (1 Corinthians 13:4, Hebrews 6:12)
- Humble: Considers others above self, not self-promoting (Philippians 2:3-4)
- Generous: Sacrifices to meet needs, shares gladly (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)
- Merciful: Extends forgiveness, shows compassion (Luke 6:35-36)
- Sincere: Loves genuinely from the heart (Romans 12:9, 2 Corinthians 6:6)
- Courageous: Speaks truth in love, stands for what is right (Ephesians 4:15)
Cultivating these virtues expands our capacity for kindness beyond superficial niceness. It leads us into sincere expressions of Christ’s love that benefit others and honor God.
Becoming Truly Kind People
We have explored key distinctions between niceness and kindness. Where do we go from here? How can we reflect more Christ-like kindness? Here are some tips:
- Examine motives: Ask God to search your heart and reveal self-focused motives or superficial habits. Nurture inward qualities like humility and compassion.
- Think beyond appearances: Don’t get caught up in outward perception. Focus less on how you appear, and more on authentic connection.
- Courageously care: Be willing to graciously engage in messy situations and hard conversations to show God’s care.
- Freely give: Look to meet tangible needs. Give time, listen, encourage, and help without expecting anything in return.
- Speak gently: Season words with grace. Build others up. Proclaim truth peacefully and thoughtfully.
- Follow Christ’s example: Study Jesus’ tender yet bold interactions. Ask Him to teach you and conform you to live out His sincere kindness.
By God’s grace, we can grow in true Christ-like kindness. May our lives overflow with sincere care that runs deeper than surface niceness. Let us lavishly love those around us, pointing them to God’s infinite kindness.