No More Christian Nice Girl, by Paul Coughlin and Jennifer D. Degler (Bethany House, 2010)
No More Christian Nice Girl? Yuck.
Don’t judge a book by its cover—or title—I told myself; there must have been a reason why I accepted this book from the publisher for review.
Flip to a random chapter. Yeech. If the title made me gag, this chapter nearly made me lose my dinner. Well, accepting the book is a promise to review it, which implies I must read it.
I didn’t care much for the beginning, either, but fortunately, it got better. I don’t like the authors’ style, so it helped to separate that from the content. They do have some good points to make.
Foremost is the idea that even in the 21st century too many women have bought into the idea that they must be “sugar and spice and everything nice”—and for Christian women, this is often exacerbated by the messages they receive from their churches. However, being “nice,” as opposed to being good, turns us into unhappy, frustrated doormats who try to please everyone, do other people’s work for them, injure our own families by never being able to say “no” to others, and generally end up doing more harm than good in the process. What’s more, we lose rather than gain respect and appreciation for all our efforts.
The authors make the point that “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” is not precisely the Jesus presented in the Bible, and that by glossing over passages that show his righteous anger, hard words, and assertive actions, we give ourselves an inaccurate model to follow when considering, “What would Jesus do?”
Even though I, myself, have some of the problems the authors delineate, I was not inspired by this book. I’d like to see the same topic dealt with in a way that feels less condescending. But that may be just me; I’m sure there are many “Christian Nice Girls” whose fractured and stressful lives could benefit from the wisdom the authors present.
Here are some things I did like:
Before looking at how God created most women, a quick caveat: The research findings presented are for the majority of women. Some women’s brains are wired more like the typical man’s brain, and the reverse is true of men as well. Having “majority wiring” is not better or more pleasing to God than “minority wiring.” Both types of wiring are valuable and useful to God, whether they are found in women or men.
I appreciated this. I’m tired of books that say “women are like this,” or “women want that”—such as the Eldredges’ Wild at Heart and Captivating—when as far as I’m concerned they miss the boat completely.
The sugar-and-spice expectations start in infancy when baby girls are dressed in ruffles, pastels, and bows while boys are dressed in brighter colors and sports-oriented clothing. Adults treat girl babies more gently than boy babies, even though girl babies are physiologically heartier and stronger. Parents provide dolls to daughters and trucks and sports toys to sons, and reward play behavior that is gender stereotyped. Across the world, girls spend more time doing household chores and helping with child care, while boys spend more time in unsupervised play. It’s true that girls may prefer to play “relationally” with toys, and may want to be helpful given their empathetic wiring, but when Christian parents, often unknowingly, send solely the message “girls should be nice and helpful and boys should be active and independent,” they are hemming in their children and making it more difficult for girls and boys to grow into the full 360-degree image of Christ.
Still? After all these years? Apparently so.
Some churches don’t allow women to be involved in any form of leadership, unless it’s singing on the worship team or teaching children. This means that the important insights and contributions available from women’s god-given, intuitive, empathetic minds are undervalued, unheard, and unheeded. In other churches, where women are encouraged to be more assertive and expressive, it’s often highly compartmentalized. Being animated and spirited is okay—but only during worship. It’s good to be courageous—when sharing the gospel. It’s right to be firm—when disciplining your children. … And when women are allowed to lead, some are trained that when it comes to a disagreement, men win by virtue of gender, not accuracy.
Christian Nice Girls tend to minimize their negative experiences by saying, “What happened to me wasn’t that bad. Other people have had it worse.” Yes, perhaps other people have had it worse, but that doesn’t mean that what happened to you should be ignored or judged as unworthy of examination. You have to look for what’s perpetuating a problem before you can fix it.
What are people learning from their relationship experiences with you? Firmly speaking the truth in love and maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships will teach most people to treat you respectfully. However, not everyone is teachable, and ultimately, you aren’t responsible for how people accept your truth spoken with love and grace. ... If someone is not teachable, you will completely waste your time and energy if you try to teach them what they aren’t interested in learning or changing. … [P]ray for them, get out of the way, and let God get to them. He will orchestrate life lessons that will teach them what they need to know.
Most people grow up watching mothers pick up after their children, finish the last of the dishes, etc. Women like to help, and it is hard to stop this rescuing behavior in the workplace. But it’s a big mistake to rescue incompetent co-workers by doing their work for them. Everyone needs a helping hand now and again, but there is a difference between giving someone a helping hand and enabling them to be a perpetual slacker.
Women bond by sharing the intimate details of their lives…. Because of their strong need for approval, Christian Nice Girls share more than is necessary or wise to connect with others. This can come back to haunt them….
You have to set limits with [some] people, or they will tend to take increasingly large amounts of the energy, time, money, and talent God gave you to accomplish his purposes.
For Christian Nice Girls with anxious parents, the message transmitted was “Life is to be feared.” This type of caretaker hovers like a search-and-rescue helicopter, transmitting fear and overprotecting children by:
- Not allowing them to regularly go outside and play in a reasonably safe neighborhood, but watching them like a hawk when they are allowed outside, which thwarts their play.
- Setting limits that would only be appropriate for a much younger child on how far they can ride their bikes or walk with friends.
- Overreacting to and overanalyzing normal childhood developmental challenges or minor injuries.
- Painting a verbally frightening picture of the world by continually pointing out any possible dangers, however remote or unlikely.
- Performing tasks that they could do themselves … which reinforces beliefs of inferiority and powerlessness.
- Intruding into and trying to control all aspects of their children’s free time, relationships, and jobs.
- Constantly calling them on their cell phone … just to “see how they’re doing.”
- Making all of their children’s decisions.
- Rescuing their children from any mistakes and not allowing them to suffer any negative consequences.
Needless to say, this is as important for boys as for girls. It could have come straight out of Free-Range Kids.
God takes the sin of cowardice very seriously. Revelation 21:8 states, “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” Cowardice is included among the worst temptations you can give in to.