A lot of you know that I’m originally from the Midwest, and we just hit our SIX year anniversary of being Texans. Since we’ve been here, we’ve gotten passes to the State Fair, learned to smoke brisket and started unironically using ‘y’all’. I don’t know if that makes us true Texans or not. But there’s one other phrase we had to learn to really thrive here in Texas and that’s “Bless Your Heart”.
‘Bless your heart’ is what Texans say when you’re about to say instead of saying something mean. Like if someone says they don’t know what a tractor pull is, you go, “Oh! Well bless your heart.” And what you mean by that is, “Wow, you need some culture!”
“Bless your heart” is the most obvious form of what I’ve heard called “Texas nice”. It wasn’t a new concept for me because in the Midwest, we have ‘Midwest nice’. And they’re the same sort of thing. They’re a public-facing façade, the embodiment of, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
We’re going to talk about niceness today. At its best, nice serves an admirable purpose. Nice is basically minding your own business. That person has a silly hat on, one you wouldn’t be caught dead in. Who cares? Do you need to say something to them? Probably not. So you keep it to yourself, maybe mumble a “bless their heart” under your breath and move on. Nice is a way of keeping the peace.
The problem, however, is when we can’t differentiate when to be nice and when to be honest. We struggle to know when to speak up and when it’s okay to just move on. A friend engaged in self-harming behavior doesn’t need a “bless your heart”. It’s probably necessary to confront that family member who makes racist jokes.
Yikes. That already feels scary, doesn’t it? We’re going to talk about the difference today between nice and kind. We too often treat them as synonyms, but the differences are profound and important.
Nice is a movement that preserves a superficial peace. Kind insists on deeper, truer and more honest relationships. And as God’s people, we’re called not to be nice to one another, but to be kind.
So today is about how to be kind. And we’re able to be kind to one another first and foremost because God is kind to us. In fact, we’ll hear from the Scriptures today that it’s God’s kindness toward us that leads us to repent and be in relationship with God.