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Vom Verlag: From the Preface (pre-publication version):
“[N]ice girls” are always calm, controlled, quiet . . . they never cause a ruckus, are never noisy, bossy, or aggressive, are not anxious and do not cause trouble.
Niceness is the opposite of spirituality. Niceness is, in fact, the opposite of what is required to build any genuine relationship—with God or with others. While niceness can smooth superficial human interactions, it is devastating to true intimacy.
Niceness requires putting away genuine feelings, avoiding conflict, swallowing hurts, denying pain, and being untruthful. Niceness requires self-denial and often self-forgetting. The nice person eventually forgets to notice how she really feels, even in extreme circumstances. The truly nice person doesn’t even know when she’s angry, and wouldn’t admit to being angry if questioned. The nice person would never fight on her own behalf. Most often, nice people are not able to feel strong positive emotions either. Nice people are “calm, controlled, and quiet.”
Niceness is the opposite of what adults should be teaching adolescents. Yet, it is a prime virtue taught to adolescent girls by mothers, teachers, and other adults who have internalized dominant cultural messages about “good” women: that they are self-sacrificing, nurturing, and never angry—that they are ultimately responsible for maintaining and protecting relationships. Girls, in fact, are taught to understand themselves in terms of the relationships of which they are a part. They “learn” that conflict (not-niceness) is a threat to relationships and selves, rather than that anger and other so-called negative feelings are natural human emotions that can be symptoms of relational problems.
Just at the time in their lives when girls are coming to know themselves as adults, just at the time when their awareness of what it means to be women is formed, they are often taught to be “nice” instead of to understand and deal with the complexity of adult emotional life. This usually means putting away their most important and real feelings, in favor of the kind of smiles and congeniality that will more likely win adult (and peer) approval.
True spirituality is about intimacy with God and others. This book is based in the testimony of over one hundred girls about their developing spiritualities within the context of a culture of “niceness.” Most of the girls in this study were very “nice” to me, the interviewer, but many also were courageous enough to break through niceness and to speak from their hearts about God, their families, their churches, their friends, and their relationships.
It is encouraging that most of these girls seem to see how expectations of “niceness” can be dangerous for them and for the development of real intimate relationships. But, they also talk about the struggle to act in ways that are congruent with their true feelings when those feelings are negative or even just intense. More importantly for the adults in their lives, they talk about their need for models—especially for women—who will embody a spirituality and style of relating to others that reveals integrity between true emotions and actions. They talk about wanting and needing families and church communities that will expect them to live honestly instead of nicely. They talk about needing to be able to ask questions that are hard and challenging, and to be heard and answered. They talk about the hard areas of their own lives, their experiences (first- or second-hand) of violence and their developing sexualities. They talk about their experiences of financial and material need! , and their expectations for the future.
I began this study with the idea that working with girls in a spiritual context would mean, first of all, helping girls to see the value in spirituality. I was surprised to find that most of the girls to whom I listened are already vitally interested in having a real relationship with God. And, they are interested in worship, doctrine, and especially the ethical teaching of the church. But they wonder why adults do not address their issues of vital concern such as violence, financial problems, and sexuality. They wonder why, even when they risk asking the questions, they are ignored or given answers that are too easy. This book can be read as a plea from the girls to the adults in their lives and to the church to drop the “niceness” code—to listen to their sometimes difficult voices—and to move toward real relationships with them. It can also be read as a offering of gratitude for the times they have been heard and appreciated even when they weren’t being nice. I am deeply indebted to these girls for their courage and willingness to talk with me. Their thoughtfulness and honesty is an inspiration to me, and I hope they will be so for others as well.
Titel: Beyond Nice
Verlag: Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN
Auflage: 1st Edition
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