Today I learned that you can be really nice and also really selfish.
So one of the attributes of love, as described in 1 Corinthians 13, is kindness. I think we equate the definition of it to “niceness”. So we get this idea that being nice to everyone proves that you are genuinely acting out of love.
Except, niceness can actually stem from fear and inadequacy and a lost sense of identity. All of these are in direct opposition to love, the very thing we claim to be operating out of when we are being nice.
In Exodus 32, when the Israelites are at the foot of Mount Sinai, waiting for Moses to return with God’s commandments, they lose sight and begin craving a new object to throw worship at. So, they come up to Aaron, the priest, and tell him to make them some gods who will go before them.
When Aaron later recounts to Moses the origin of the golden calf that became Israel’s new idol, he tells it as if he wasn’t to be held responsible for giving into their requests.
“You know how prone these people are to evil… they gave me the gold, and I threw it in the fire, and out came this calf!”
“You know how prone these people are to evil.” Aaron knew, very well, that giving the Israelites an idol was wrong. As the priest of the new nation, he knew he should have directed his people to the truth, reminded them of what their God had done for them in delivering them from the hands of the Egyptians. Even if he didn’t have a good argument, he should have told them no, at least. He knew God’s power and the judgment that He passed on the Egyptians right before them. He knew that giving the Israelites an idol was subjecting them to the wrath of God. God’s whole purpose in rescuing them in the first place was to bring them to Himself and show the world that He is the true God. Of course He wouldn’t be okay with the Israelites turning and giving the glory to an idol.
Aaron knew that. And Aaron wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he knew was right. We see that demonstrated through him standing up to pharaoh with Moses. Aaron was the one who did all the talking, since Moses had that speech problem. He wasn’t afraid to demand that the pharaoh let his people go, yet he refused to tell his own people that worshipping an idol was a bad idea once they were freed from Egypt’s reign.
Aaron wasn’t scared. He was just a pushover. A really bad one. Even knowing the weight of the people’s decision and the consequences that it would have, he gave into what they requested. Because he wanted to appease them right then and there. He didn’t know what to do without offending them, so he took the easy way out and was nice about it.
Aaron was nice. Yet he demonstrated the exact opposite of love; the antithesis of kindness. The fact that he stooped so low just to avoid offending the people says a lot about his character. He must’ve been insecure if he needed the affirmation that badly. He hurt, even indirectly killed, the very people he wanted to gain approval and affection from, once the wrath of God caught up with the people’s decision.
That is the definition of selfishness. Disregarding the future consequences someone will face just to gain their affection in the present. Not telling someone that they’re making a horrible decision. Letting them slide when they’re not doing what they need to be doing. Hiding the truth just to make them happy now. Yeah, you might not be very nice for telling them the truth, but at least you’re demonstrating true love and concern, and you are operating from a point of complete identification in Christ, so that you do not need their approval and affection to stand firm in your convictions.
I don’t know why it took me so long to understand this. But I don’t think kindness always looks like niceness. They’re completely different and stem from two entirely different positions and motives.