What I’m about to tell you is very simple. You’ve probably heard it before. You probably know it already. Some would argue that it’s common sense. I would disagree. Why am I taking the time to share something so basic? Because I was recently reminded of it’s utmost importance and it has changed the way that I see, the way that I live and approach everyday life.. and I am so grateful for it. I think it’s one of those things that we’ve heard so much that we take it for granted and actually forget to apply it to our lives. If you are already living this out forgive me for insulting your intelligence. But I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who need a reminder just like I do.
So, with all that said, here it is. A few weeks ago I was at the grocery store minding my own business when this thought hit me like a freight train:
“What if I made it a priority, everywhere I go, to be nice to people?”
A PRIORITY. Not some random whim or afterthought. Not just because it’s Christmas time. Not just the few times I’m inspired to do so. No. What if I made it my primary objective to be friendly to people everywhere I went all the time? Umm, okay, lets not start there that sounded way too overwhelming. Let’s start smaller. What if, before we walk into a coffee shop, a grocery store, the doctor’s office… we take 15 seconds to pray and remind ourselves: Make it a priority to be friendly and treat people with respect. Be kind, courteous and open to conversation. Be nice.
The reason it has to be a priority, for me anyways, is that if I don’t intentionally make it one it will be the last thing on my mind and it will not happen. Typically, as an American consumer, when I go to the grocery store my priority is to get what I need and get out of there – fast. When I go to a restaurant my agenda is to figure out what to eat and take care of the hunger in my stomach. When I go to the post office my goal is to send whatever I need to send as quickly as possible. When I go to the bank, my priority is to… you get the point. PROBLEM: in this model people are not humans with a soul, a mind, emotions and a will. We don’t realize they have beating hearts, plans, broken dreams and desires, they have a story to tell just like us. In this way of living people are reduced to objects. Objects that can either help me accomplish my objective or get in the way of me accomplishing my objective. And I don’t think we realize it because it’s not like we’re intentionally being mean to people. We’re totally blind to it. We’re carrying around the stress of our lives, the to-do list of our day, consumed by our own world of responsibility and chaos. So driven by our own cares and worries that we are completely oblivious to the person standing right in front of us.
You may ask, “Why bother? Why be nice to people?”. And I ask you in return, “Why not?” Life is so much richer when we engage with people around us. We have so much to offer them, and they in turn have so much to offer us. This is the way God originally intended for the world to be. I’m discovering the beauty of this world. The beauty of escaping my cocoon and intentionally opening up to people. The other day I found out a teller at my bank is not just working full time but getting a masters degree. She lost a scholarship to a big school because she tore her acl playing soccer. Her life is very difficult right now. She is no longer just a teller. She is a fragile person with needs. She has a name. Why do I have to remind myself of this? It sounds so shallow, like I should already know this. How quickly we can forget though.
The most valuable thing on this planet is people. Yet we’ve disregarded the value of life and diminished people into being less important than our own agendas. If we’re not careful we can become so concerned with our mission statement that we forget God’s number one mission of loving people. That is very sad. It is because we’re flawed. But we’re not too far gone. We can change. And it starts small. It starts by being open to being nice to the person standing right in front of us. Open to being “inconvenienced” by them. Today. Right now.
So we start small. We start by being nice to people. But that’s just scratching the surface. Jesus was very clear in stating the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself. We are completely in need of God’s power and grace to truly love others because the real issue is in our hearts. We can’t be nice if we’re harboring judgement, resentment and hatred. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, GENTLENESS. That fruit is not given to us, it’s bore out of God’s Spirit living in us. We must yield to His Spirit to bear that fruit. The way that we prioritize our lives directly effects the way we live. Simple. Our values and beliefs shape our decisions and actions. The place that we set these values and priorities is in our hearts. That’s one of the many reasons that God’s word is so crucial to our thriving, because it helps shape our perspective and values in accordance with eternal truth. It helps us rearrange our priorities to line up to God’s eternal kingdom, not this earth that is passing away.
To those of you who believe in Jesus: We’re called to be salt and light in this earth. Salt that preserves, light that shines. But how can we be salt and light to others if we don’t even open the line of communication by being friendly? Too often contemporary Christians feel burdened out of guilt to share the gospel. And instead of loving people where they’re at and being the hands and feet of Jesus we throw a stripped down version of the gospel at them out of obligation. I’ve been guilty of this in the past. But people don’t need heartless words. They need authentic love. They need living proof. They need someone to be friendly to them for no reason. How effective can telling somebody about Jesus be if we’re not showing them who He is? How will we even have an opportunity to share if we’re so concerned about getting our triple venti sugar free non fat no foam extra caramel macchiato that we don’t even realize the person standing right in front of us?
Remember, START SIMPLE. Start today. Start right where you are. And let me say this, don’t be surprised when you’re nice to somebody and they’re not nice back. Actually, expect people to mean. It will make for even a more exciting challenge!! Imagine how contagious being friendly is. It starts with us. Lets go. Let me know how it works out for you.