EP. 35: Sharon Hodde Miller

Sharon Hodde Miller | Nice: Why We Love to Be Liked and How God Calls Us to More

Sharon Hodde Miller leads Bright City Church in Durham, NC alongside her husband,
Ike.

In addition to earning her PhD, Sharon has blogged at SheWorships.com for nearly
ten years, making God’s Word accessible to women everywhere. Author of Free of ME: Why Life is Better When It’s Not About You, she has been a regular contributor to Propel, She Reads Truth, and Christianity Today, and has written for Relevant, (in)courage, and many other publications and blogs.

She speaks regularly on topics ranging from leadership to body image to Scripture. She and her husband have two sons and one daughter.


Sharon and I chat about the difference between niceness and kindness, the dangers of making words like authenticity and courage trendy, how God cultivates the fruit of the Spirit in us, and how knowing the depth of God’s Word is vital as a believer.  Our conversation surrounds her newest book Nice: Why We Love to Be Liked and Why God Calls Us to More.

5:58 Sharon shares how her faith journey with Jesus began

Sharon worked for Proverbs 31 ministry when she graduated from college.  It was a small ministry at that time with about 5 people on staff.

“I went back to seminary, because I realized I really wanted to equip myself for ministry.”

8:50 Sharon expounds on the first line in her new book Nice: Why We Love to Be Liked and Why God Calls Us to More ,  “God didn’t call us to be nice.”

The book came from a paragraph she wrote in her first book, Free of Me.

“I was a really good kid. I was a nice Christian girl. I was a rule follower. I was an achiever. I was a people pleaser.  That was a big part of my identity.   As I looked back, I think all along I felt like I was a good kid, because I loved God and I wanted to honor God. To some extent that was true, but I could also see that it was really rewarding to be a good kid. It earned me a lot of affirmation from all of the adults in my life. I could look back and see these mixed motives in my heart and how that was blurring my identity as a Christian.”

“The more I noticed this [nice Christian mentality] the more I thought this is a false virtue in our culture, but it is also a false idol in the church. We don’t see anywhere in the Bible that tells us to be nice.  We are told to bear fruits of kindness and patience and gentleness and love, but nowhere are we told to be nice.”

“We will often excuse sin or dysfunction if a person is simply nice to us. “

“He doesn’t call us to be mean. He doesn’t call us to be aggressive. He doesn’t call us to be divisive, but He doesn’t call us to simply be pleasant.”

15:15 “Nice Christianity looks a lot like the real thing. Jesus says the way you can know it’s not the real thing is look at the fruit it is producing.”

“Some of the fruits [of niceness] are unexpected like self-righteousness.  This doesn’t look like niceness on its face, but it is a fruit of it. That was 100% my story, because I was such a good girl, I would think, ‘’Being good is so easy. What’s wrong with these other people who aren’t nice like me?’  Instead of owning the fact that part of the reason I was good was I was a slave to people’s affirmation and approval.”

17:23 Sharon describes the difference between niceness and kindness

Love Kindness: Discover the Power of a Forgotten Christian Virtue by Barry H. Corey

“I think one of the ways you can discern that difference in yourself is how you respond when somebody does not reciprocate your niceness or your kindness. Niceness when it is not reciprocated it flips really quickly. It turns into, ‘How could they respond that way? How could they treat me that way? I was so nice to them.’  Because ultimately niceness really wasn’t about them, it was about you.  Kindness is about God and others. It’s being kind the way Jesus was kind, which is selflessly and sacrificially. It’s not about eliciting a certain response. It’s about just loving them the way God loves them regardless of how they treat you.”

“The concept of sacrifice is really essential to understanding the difference between niceness and the real fruit of the Spirit, because niceness is ultimately about you.”

Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

21:28 Sharon writes: 

  • “Authenticity itself has become so fashionable that it’s now a tool for manipulating people, something you perform in order to get what you want.”
  • “Our language about courage is more often fun and inspiring than it is gritty and sacrificial.”

22:29 Sharon speaks about courage

On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior 

“We need to be discerning about that message and be honest with ourselves and be able to say, ‘Maybe I wasn’t brave today.’ Maybe, I backed down instead of saying something that needed to be said out of love for my neighbors, out of love for the vulnerable. You know having that hard conversation with a relative who maybe said something really inappropriate and maybe you backed down.  In that moment, you weren’t being brave.”

27:29 Sharon talks about authenticity and how it has almost become a consumer good in our culture

“That is why we need Jesus. We will take even good things and distort them and break them just enough that they may resemble what they were, but they’re not anymore.”

32:16 Sharon discusses how niceness can disguise aggression in the workplace and the church.

“We don’t have to protect Jesus’ reputation….but often times what we are doing in those moments when we think we are protecting Jesus, we are protecting ourselves.”

Sharon writes, “spiritual growth is not something we muster up.  It is not a sheer act of will…it is God who enables our growth.” 

36:02 Sharon shares how she confronts her urge toward niceness, which is what is including in the second half of Nice.

“At the end of the day it is God who gives the growth, but we partner with Him through these practices of cultivating.”

42:16 Sharon shares about Paul’s knowledge of God and how that helped him avoid cynacism

“They [Paul and Jesus] had this Scripture soaked understanding of humanity and the portrait we see of humanity in Scripture is a very complex one….People are good and bad.”

46:25 Sharon shares about Scripture on the surface vs. the depths of Scripture.

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