Could being a nice person be harder than it seems?
When I was young, I went to a good school and lived in a nice area in a comfortable home. My life was secure and happy. I joined a local church choir when I was 10, not because I felt a need to go to church, but because they paid money to those joining.
When I became a teenager, I joined another church because they had a youth club where they played games and handed out snacks. They also said that you had to sit through the youth church services to get the snacks. Here I heard about the life of Jesus, and how He died to save me from my sins.
Mean to my mother
I wasn’t sure if I had any sins. I didn’t steal, or cheat or lie. My schoolwork was done on time and done well. I was nice to people. But I did like the idea that Jesus was my connection to God and I didn’t have to go through priests or pastors. So I began to talk to Jesus about small things, like when I was scared or confused, upset or irritated.
I soon found something out about myself.
I wasn’t very nice to my mother.
If she asked me to do something, I ignored her. If she told me that I did something wrong, I gave a sharp answer. But now that I was talking to Jesus, I had begun to read things that He said in the New Testament like:
“Your words will be used to judge you - to declare you either innocent or guilty.” Matthew 12:37 (GNT).
So, it mattered how I spoke to my mum in our kitchen! I hadn’t known that before. “OK,” I said to myself. “I’ll stop doing that.”
Trying to be good
I started out well, full of confidence and with a firm decision to stop. I thought, “If I could just get through one day without answering my mum in a bad way … how hard could one day be?” I didn’t even think of praying for help – I thought I could easily manage one day by myself.
The day had gone well; I was pleased with myself. That evening I made myself a cup of tea, took my book and started walking to my room. Just then, my mum called me from the kitchen to dry the dishes. I had already cleared the table. What more could she expect me to do! This was really not nice!
Then, out it came, just when I thought I had managed this one day so well. I gave her a sharp answer and refused to do it. When I looked at my mum’s face it was like I had slapped her. I ran to my room, sat on the floor, and cried.
I was angry with myself. My “nice person” was just a people-pleaser that knew how to behave in public but not at home. I was lazy, and I was selfish, and no amount of good decisions could change the fact that I couldn’t even obey one word of God for one day. I felt like Simon Peter after Jesus told him he would deny Him three times. Peter had been so very sure that he could “lay down his life” for Jesus, only to find soon afterwards that he couldn’t even admit he knew Him.
Help from heaven
But did Jesus really care so much that I was lazy and selfish? If I tried really, really hard to be nice, wouldn’t that be good enough in the end?
“And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” Luke 22:61. I felt like Jesus was looking deep into my soul. I couldn’t fool Him with my efforts to try harder. I had to admit I needed help - help to overcome my selfish nature that forced me to behave in such a bad way. I realised that “trying hard” to be nice just wasn’t enough.
We are told to “put to death” our worldly nature which comes out as jealousy and anger and evil and bad language. This means you have to hate these reactions and ask God for help to say No when bad or angry or selfish thoughts come up, so that you don’t react from your feelings. Instead you have to “put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him …” Colossians 3:5,10 (NLT). Then we become new people who do not fall in temptation. This is a slow process, but it is true.
That day I humbled myself and asked Jesus to come into my heart and help me be a completely new person. I knew that God was there, and that He was willing to give me full power to follow His commandments and Jesus’ example – this time with the help of the Holy Spirit, not just my own, well-meaning efforts.
I am no longer the teenager crying on my bedroom floor, but a middle-aged Christian who has learnt that I have to ask God to give me the power and grace I need in my life. And He gives it to me! He gives me power and grace to live a new life, where I become more and more free from the burden of sin.