For Christian Nice Girls: Real Goodness
Paul CoughlinPaul Coughlin's Weblog
- 2010 Jul 12
Are you hungry to know more about authentic goodness? Here's an inspiring definition from
Goodness in man is not a mere passive quality, but the deliberate preference of right to wrong, the firm and persistent resistance of all moral evil, and the choosing and following of all moral good.
Tweak that definition for modern-day women: Goodness is active. Goodness deliberately chooses to do the right thing and firmly resists what is wrong. Merely avoiding bad things doesn't make women good.
If you want to choose to do the right thing, you have to first know what is right, and that involves getting the mind of Christ—understanding and valuing things the way God does, having his eyes and ears and heart. Having his mind will enable you to clearly distinguish right from wrong, but be forewarned: you will pay a price. When you start thinking like Christ, you are guaranteed to sometimes make choices that offend and anger other people. The gospels prove this fact. Jesus chose to value and welcome the unwashed masses: prostitutes, tax collectors, partiers, the woman with a perpetual menstrual flow who was deemed "unclean." Jesus chose to honor the impoverished widow's miniscule two-mite offering over the far larger (but less costly) offerings of the wealthy. These choices confused, offended, and infuriated the Pharisees and religious leaders.
Authentic goodness also involves setting yourself apart for service to God. This means you want to do whatever pleases God which, like having the mind of Christ, comes with a price. Choosing to please him more than anyone else guarantees that occasionally you will make other people unhappy, including family and friends. Prime example: Jesus, again. One time his mother and brothers interrupted his teaching by sending Jesus a message that they were outside, waiting to speak to him. He didn't comply with their request; instead, he used their request to continue his teaching by indicating that his disciples were his family, as well as adding "whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (Matthew 12:50). Scripture doesn't record his mother's reaction, but don't you imagine she was put out with Jesus that day? Those were probably hard words for his family to hear, but they needed a reminder that pleasing and serving God was more important to Jesus than pleasing his mother or anybody else.
Contrast that authentic goodness with the false niceness that Christian women often hold as sacred. Instead of focusing on inward goodness, they focus on outward appearances. The focus becomes what they don't do—swear, use bad manners, smoke, get drunk, show cleavage, etc.—and these avoided behaviors are sanctified and held up as the pinnacle of what God wants from women. Meanwhile, what they do for God—attending church, teaching Sunday school, or tithing—can become a performance designed to impress others or to earn God's love. Women begin to sound a lot like the Pharisees, focusing on the outward while ignoring the condition of their inward hearts.
If you're wondering why you have not seen Christ's sweet and salty sides equally presented in church, well…join the club. We have wondered about this as well and have some ideas to share with you, but first, we want to acknowledge that there have been times when Christians were too forceful and aggressive. Our goal with this book is not to create Christian Mean Girls who bulldoze people. But after helping struggling believers for years, both of us are convinced that the problem isn't that Christians are too spirited; the problem is the opposite: believers in general aren't spirited or willful enough! As a result, multitudes are underpowered, burned out, and bored with Christianity.
As a body, the church lacks the life skills necessary to be truly like Christ—assertive but not overbearing. Christian women need to find a balance between passivity and aggressiveness. This starts with finding a backbone so that they can be redemptive forces for good in a world that too often strips people of their dignity and worth. Did your mother ever remind you to "stop slumping over and sit up straight?" This book's message is similar: "Stop slumping over and find your Christian backbone. The world needs you."
Given how much the world desperately needs Christian women who will stand up straight, it's surprising how often the firmer side of Jesus is ignored in churches; however, it's no accident. Some church leaders and churchgoers have removed Christ's forceful side in a deliberate attempt to make Christianity more appealing to the average person. While this may make sense in a popularity contest, it's foolishness in a church because it robs Christians of a Savior who has the power to actually save and rescue people. Numerous believers are unaware that they've come to a dangerous inner conclusion: "Jesus is so nice that he won't be able to help me out of the trouble I'm in. He's so nice that, like all nice people, he's going to be shocked by how bad the real me can be." Bland niceness may bring a degree of comfort, but it doesn't bring redemption or help create authentic goodness.
And let's admit that not everyone goes to church to pursue righteousness or to change the world. Sometimes women go to church just to get away from the world. Sadly, the world often scares believers far more than it inspires them to redeem it, so women tend to favor churches that make the Good News appear consistently safe and problem-free. This is one of the reasons why believers call the room where they gather a sanctuary.
While church should be a place where people experience peace and refreshment, it should also be a hospital for broken, hurting people who need strength and courage to get back on their feet. The problem is, often people prefer that church be more of a nursery than a hospital: a place that is always soothing and pleasant. God never intended for church to be a "wrapped in lambs' wool" experience because such a place doesn't help believers grow into the full image of Christ, salty and sweet.
When churches resemble nurseries, they attract people looking for comfortable Christianity, a swaddling spirituality that allows them to remain basically unchanged. According to one human behavior specialist with twenty years of experience administering personality tests to thousands of Christians, about 85% of church-goers he has tested have more "passive" than "active" personality types, as compared to 62% of the general population. This means that fear and timidity may be holding back many church-goers because their "disease to please" keeps them enslaved to other people's approval. When churches don't provide courage and strength training by showing a full picture of Jesus, passive Christians don't get the spiritual prescription they need to find their backbones. They become resentful doormats in relationships and rarely take meaningful chances in life, severely limiting their spiritual growth.
And this continually sweet, soft, but unbiblical Jesus that is primarily taught appeals to women for another reason: Jesus, Meek and Mild, gives women a head start in the race of faith. His supposed character (always nurturing and compassionate) leans far more toward a typical woman's strengths than a man's—so women get to claim the title of being more spiritual while at the same time not having to undergo the challenging spiritual transformation of becoming more bold, strong, and courageous! It is no wonder, then, that church today is far more attractive to women than men.
The full Jesus is among the best kept secrets of the Bible—a secret that will change your life unlike any other piece of vital insight. This book's goal is to let you in on this secret so that you can look at Christ and yourself from all perspectives. Have you ever caught a glimpse of yourself in a full-length mirror and been horrified to see that you were walking around with your skirt tucked into the back of your pantyhose? You didn't see the complete picture until you took the time to look at yourself from all angles. Likewise, many women don't have the complete picture of Jesus or themselves because they only look from one viewpoint—the viewpoint that sees and values only the sweet side.
Put yourself into the infamous 260-degree mirror from the TV show What Not to Wear, but instead of focusing on your clothing, ask yourself, "Do I reflect the full personality of Jesus Christ?" The goal when emulating the real Jesus is to become both sweet and salty, both gracious and firm. Those qualities complement one another. They make Christ and you deliciously irresistible to a hungry world.
If you need it, consider this your permission to emulate all 360 degrees of Jesus. Sometimes women wait for their parents, pastor, priest, husband, family, or friends to give them permission to be both gracious and firm. That permission may or may not come from those people (you'll find more information about how to handle these people in later chapters). For right now, just know that the Bible permits—commands actually—that all believers, male and female, be transformed into the full image of Christ.
This essential insight authorizes you to be both stronger and gentler than you may have ever thought possible or allowable. Sometimes, it takes a lot of backbone to be tender. In John 8, Jesus demonstrated this when Pharisees brought him a woman caught in adultery. They planned to frame Jesus by trapping him into speaking against Mosaic Law and capital punishment. But Jesus, ever wise as a serpent, defused the potentially explosive stand-off with one of the most tender and strong statements recorded in the Gospels: "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" (v. 7). Gentle mercy and unyielding strength—delivered in one stunning blow.
Don't miss what this statement cost Jesus. He embarrassed and angered the Pharisees, his main rivals throughout his three years of public ministry. They set a trap for Jesus that backfired and instead ensnared them. Jesus knew that his good deed of gentle mercy would ultimately entrench his enemies even further. But because he had the internal strength to withstand their rejection, he could choose to reveal his tender and merciful side even when doing so was dangerous.
Jesus remains history's most captivating figure, in part because he was a full[spectrum person with an amazing twist. He was compassionate when others were judgmental and even hateful. He was bold and courageous when those around him were cowardly. Surrounded by self-righteous, rigid religious people, Jesus stood out as a rare combination of firm, godly truth expressed freely and authentically. And he was able to be so good because he was both tender and firm, compassionate and courageous. Women tend to think that these traits cancel each other out when, in reality, they complement each other, like a delicious meal that is both sweet and savory. These character traits reflec tgod's character and nature, and show what complete, 360-degree people are really like, and how they truly life. Understanding this liberating truth is essential to transforming from a Christian Nice Girl into one of God's Good Women.
Paul Coughlin is the author of numerous books, including Unleashing Courageous Faith, No More Christian Nice Guy and No More Jellyfish, Chickens or Wimps. He also co-authored a book for married couples with his wife Sandy, titled Married But Not Engaged. Paul is founder of The Protectors, the values-based and faith-based answer to adolescent bullying, which provides curriculum for public schools, private schools, retreats, and individuals who want to diminish child-based bullying.