Niceness vs. Holiness

Chances are, you know someone who feels they don’t need religion because they are a “nice person.” Or maybe you feel like you’re doing well on the holiness front because you are nice to those around you. But is being “nice” really enough?

Fr. Mark Matthias recently stopped by Morning Air® to discuss the role that being nice plays in our journey to being holy. He said:

Being Nice is Not Enough
I think one thing we all have to fight against is complacency. Because most people will say, ‘I’m a nice person. I don’t always go to Mass, and I haven’t always forgiven everyone for what they’ve done. But I’m a nice person.’

Well, I’ll remind you that Jesus doesn’t call us to just niceness, He calls us to holiness. And when you really start to study the Gospels, you see how serious Jesus is about sin, and what He considers to be a sin.

For example, you’ll see in chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus says, ‘Whoever says ‘You fool’ shall be liable to hell fire.’ If you call your brother, neighbor, stranger, friend a fool you are liable to go to hell. Because it’s uncharitable, and you are attacking the image of God in that other person.

And that seems a little extreme, but no. He’s trying to eliminate every aspect, every nuance of negative behavior in us, so that we don’t leave a wake of destruction, hard feelings, shame, and guilt in our path.

When we really break down why we respond to people and situations, there is psychology involved. There can be a lot going on in our lives, but we need to be aware of that. We don’t have a license to take our frustrations out or the difficulties of life out on other people.

We Are Wired for Holiness
And when we think about it, we say that holiness seems like a good idea, a charming idea, but it’s not really possible because we’re human. And people will use that excuse. I’ve even heard priests preach on this, they say that none of us are ever going to be perfect, but we need to keep trying. No. It is possible to be perfect. In fact, we’re all wired for holiness.

We expect holiness from other people. We do! And yet, when it comes to ourselves, we make an exception. Think about it. Our souls are wired for holiness, and we know that because we expect others to be holy. And when we are unholy it bothers our conscience, or at least I hope it does. So we are wired for holiness. We just have to recognize it and then work toward it.

But You Cannot Be Holy Without Being Nice
Without a doubt, we know that our actions speak volumes as to what is going on inside us. And that’s words and actions. So we can walk around preaching and quoting the Bible line for line, but if people don’t see it reflected in our charity, in our forgiveness, in our love and acceptance, then it doesn’t matter what they’re hearing with their ears. What they’re experiencing in their heart will not draw them to Christ or Christianity.

And let’s face it, it’s easy to read the Gospel. It’s a quick read, you can read through the four Gospels in a matter of hours. But it’s a lot harder to apply it to our lives. When I really started to get serious about my Catholic faith, and about what it meant to be holy, I realized that you can read through a passage of Scripture and go right past what our Lord is trying to teach us. You need to take every line of Scripture, reflect on it, and say, ‘Am I doing what the Lord is commanding me to do here?’

Just like that one line when the Lord tells us to call no one a fool. How many times am I behind the wheel of my car and someone cuts me off or goes speeding in and out of traffic? The first words of my mouth are not a blessing. It’s so easy to insult that stranger, but according to our Lord, I could be liable for for hell fire because of my uncharitableness. That’s something we have to take seriously.

Listen to the full conversation below:

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Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.