In listening to a presentation today about Tanzanian people, the term 'aggressively nice' was used. I almost died laughing (inside, since I was sitting in a church service and it seemed inappropriate to burst out laughing in the middle of nothing).
It reminded me of when my children were little and they'd hang on me, lay across me, muss my hair, try to kiss me, you know, like when I was trying to cook dinner or assemble something breakable. When I'd suggest they leave me alone, they'd turn on the big eyes, tilt their heads back and say, "But we love you, Mommy!" to which I'd reply, "Could you please love me less for a little bit?"
I know that doesn't seem nurturing and motherly, but darn it, sometimes those little space invaders really got on my nerves. I had stuff to do. They weren't really doing anything wrong, and they were being nice, but they were being aggressively nice.
A lot of times, we think of the term aggressive as being mean, or surly, but it really can just mean persistent. We all hate the aggressive car salesman who follows us around and won't leave us alone, even though he has a smile on his face and seems willing to import elephants from China for you if you would only put down a small deposit on a brand new car right now. He is nice. He wants to make a sale. He wants something from you and he will crack his face in half grinning from ear to ear to get what he wants.
Some people accuse us Christians of being in the same category as car salesman. We want you to know our God, and to join us in heaven, and we will be aggressively nice to you until you cave in and listen to our preaching. I can understand the lack of appeal of this approach. No one wants to be coerced into doing something they don't want to do or enduring a situation they don't want to endure, even if it is presented by the happiest Smurf on earth.
It is my opinion that the most effective Christians are the ones who just live their lives in a way that reflects their beliefs and people will be drawn to the benefits of the results of this type of living. I don't think you need to preach in order to convince someone about the benefits of your chosen beliefs.
Be genuine. Be joyful. Find the good in people and situations, and be sincere. Do good. Be nice. When you are shouting enthusiastically into the camera donning a plaid powder blue suit and a festive bow tie, hair slicked back with a hand full of VO-5 while proclaiming your low, low prices to the world, they will see right thru the charade.
All of that being said, anyone who knows me, knows my enthusiasm for everything I believe in, whether it be a product I've sold, a skill I've mastered, an organization I've supported or a hobby I've discovered. My challenge as a Christian, and a person, has been to tone it down. My mother always told me (in a calm voice), "Just because you're the loudest, doesn't mean you're the rightest."
I've tried to turn down my volume, enthusiasm (or overenthusiasm) and car salesman nature. I have tried very hard to live my life as an example of what God wants me to be and convey my message in that way, instead of being aggressively nice. But every once and a while, I still turn to the, "And that's not all folks. If you act now, you will also receive ...
I sure hope it's grace, because I need a lot of that.
Lori Boekeloo of Hennepin is a mother of three. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or friend her on Facebook for more humor and inspiration on a daily basis.