What Kind of Nice Are You?

July 20, 2011 | 24 comments

I’m impossibly stubborn. For example:

It was two in the morning, about four years ago. Our then-toddler daughter appeared at our bedside, awakened from a bad dream. I lifted my leaden limbs from the bed and carried her back down the dark tunnel of stairs to her bedroom.  

But, I missed the last two steps, went sailing, then twisted an ankle when I turned midair to keep from landing on my little girl.

When morning dawned, I rolled out of bed. Literally. 

I crawled to the kitchen to make the girls’ breakfast, dragging my swollen foot behind me. (Good thing I keep the Cheerios on a low shelf.)

I fussed. I moaned. But when the phone rang with offers for help, I pretended everything was fine, just fine. No really, I’m ok. I’m fine… (Insert fake smile here.)

Our local MOPS leader had offered to set up a whole week’s worth of meals. The neighbor offered to take the girls for the next few days. A good friend insisted on driving me to the doctor. Another friend called to see if I needed a set of crutches.

My response, every time: “That’s okay. I’ll be fine.”

But I wasn’t okay. I needed help. In fact, I wanted their help. I just didn’t want to admit it. I was disinclined to make a fuss. I didn’t want to put anybody out. And I definitely didn’t want to appear, you know, needy.

Like I said, I’m impossibly stubborn.

Maybe I’m a Minnesotan after all. Because up north, there’s a term for this: Minnesota Nice.  The kind folks in Minnesota have a tendency toward politeness in any situation. Perhaps being courteous is easy when you live in a state that looks like this:

I feel nicer already.

But there’s more to “Minnesota Nice” than being courteous.

I’m told by my Minnesota friends that under “Minnesota Nice” rules, you would actually turn down something three times before accepting it, even if you really wanted it.

Like this:

FRIEND: “Jennifer, I’m sorry to hear about your ankle. I’m bringing a casserole over.”  

JENNIFER: (Laying on kitchen floor, secretly wanting casserole while  icing right foot with package of frozen peas): “No, I’m fine really.”

FRIEND: “Are you sure? Because it’s no trouble at all.”

JENNIFER: (Scooting on rear across floor to find yardstick with which to knock ibuprofen from cabinet because she cannot reach it): “No truly, I’m  doing pretty well, considering.”

FRIEND: “Let me bring you a casserole. I already have one in the freezer.”

JENNIFER: “Well, OK, then. If it’s no trouble…”

Thankfully, even though I might be a tad-bit “Minnesota Nice,” my friends are their own brand of Nice. They showed up at the doorstep after my first refusal. And the friend who took me to the doctor insisted that I — gasp! — sit in a wheelchair.

Lately I’ve been wondering: 

1 — How often have I stopped at ONE?  When offering help to a friend, I wonder how often I miss the opportunity to really serve because I took “no” for an answer the first time around.

2 — How often have I denied others the opportunity to extend grace? When I say “no” over and over again — out of my own stubbornness — I am not giving them the chance to do what God called them to: Be the hands and feet of Jesus.

How about you? What kind of “nice” are you? Is it more difficult for you to receive grace, then to extend it?

by | July 20, 2011 | 24 comments


  1. Nancy

    Well, I’m from New England so I’m not nice at all! Once, during a really needy period in my life when I had to keep accepting help from others, a friend from church said, “Sometimes God calls us to give and sometimes He’s asking us to receive from others.” Both giving and receiving are acts of obedience; both illustrate the beauty of God’s mercy and grace. It’s still hard to receive sometimes, but it helps to think that doing so can be a picture of the gospel.

  2. Crystal

    I am SO GUILTY of this … I’m terrible at asking for help, and maybe even worse at accepting it. I’m trying to learn how to let people in to my life when I need it most, especially as I embark on a new motherhood journey – I have a feeling I’ll need help more than ever!

  3. sharilyn

    i am pretty ok with accepting OFFERED help. but, my “nice” bit comes into play when i have to ask for help… not out of pride usually but out of not wanting to trouble or burden others. i tend to think i’ve expressed the need, and if they offer, i’ll accept, but it’s very difficult for me to ask…

    perhaps there is some pride in that after all…?

  4. David Rupert

    I’ve learned that anytime a woman says, “Fine” , you better do something.

    • deb

      you are a wise man:)

    • Lynda

      Very insightful – many a husband would do well to know this.

  5. Laura

    Easy to extend grace, but when I need to accept it, sometimes my pride gets in the way. A wise person once advised me to let someone be a blessing to me for a change!

  6. Wanda

    Oh gosh….I do that too!
    I’m from the deep south….but that Minnesota nice thing might be in my genetic makeup! haha.
    Great post!

  7. Lori

    Jennifer: I think women are really bad at accepting help. We want to smooth things over, be the helpers instead of the helpees. Is that the view from your yard?? What a wonderful place to start or end the day! Lori

  8. Linda

    There is someone very close to me (no names here) who is just this way. When it comes to giving there is no one more generous – with time, money, you name it. But to be on the receiving end….no deal. Until I (assigning myself Holy Spirit duty) pointed out what a blessing it is to be the giver and why would you want to deny that blessing to someone else. Worked!!

  9. Megan Willome

    You know where else they do this? Iran! It’s called “taarof,” and it’s extreme politeness.

  10. S. Etole

    It was pointed out to me once that there is a major difference between being “nice” and being “kind”. Living here {MN} it was a bit difficult to swallow. But 3X is right on!

  11. Jennifer@Adam's Rib

    We need His hands and feet–literally. As one of the body, we need to just get over this “I’m an island” mentality. But it’s SO hard to do. Much easier to give grace than ask for it. That’s also why it’s easier to be his hands and feet than to just sit in His presence–we want to DO. Good one here.

  12. Lyla Lindquist

    Spent my growing up years in Minnesota.

    I had to leave.

    I wonder why that is…


    • dukeslee

      South Dakota Nice suits you well. But really, I think Iowa Nice would be your thing. 🙂

  13. deb

    I can so relate to this.
    And it feels/felt like it’s pride and nice , and something else.
    I think it gets mixed in my issues with unconditional. The reciprocal thing , the expectations. Which is really about being vulnerable. Which might hurt more than the ankle. I can suck up pain and pull all nighters, and walk home from wherever, but the idea that I am unwanted or unloved? That is the real hard.

  14. Angie Vik

    I thought the three time rule was an Iowa thing. Our old neighbors from Iowa came for a visit last fall. A lady at our church who runs a B & B offered to give them a ridiculously low rate on a room for the night. She offered and of course they declined. I whispered to her that she’d need to offer two more times before they’d accept. So she offered again and again and sure enough they accepted.

  15. Molly

    Isn’t this true! Good post -thanks for sharing.
    It’s always easier when someone else plays the needy role – and we get the Giver role. It’s more fun to save the day. ah, pride goeth before I falleth.
    May the Lord continue to teach the Christian the humble path, tasting sweet to the soul.

  16. L.L. Barkat

    This too is a dance. 🙂 A cultural one. If you say yes immediately, you won’t be playing by the invisible rules and might even be considered rude. I think the difficulty comes when we step into a different cultural room and don’t realize that a no, for instance, means no on the first round. You know? 🙂

    • dukeslee

      Yes, L.L. Actually, I thought of you and some of the others on the High Calling when I wrote this. I wondered if someone from New York or Texas or Florida would “get” Minnesota Nice. These cultural rules really aren’t fair. Perhaps they should be posted at areas along the interstate. Uh-oh, that wouldn’t work in Minnesota. Their rest areas have been closed during the state government shutdown. Maybe if we ask them three times, they’ll open them up again?

  17. Debra Weiss

    I’m Southern stubborn and I don’t like accepting help or anything I’m inclined to deem “charity”.

    But at the same time, I don’t want to deny anyone else the blessing that comes from giving. So some days, I just shut my big mouth and take the help…though usually through gritted teeth. 😀

  18. Stacie

    Great post and I agree it is a cultural dance especially up here in MN. My husband works for the Twins and with the hot weather here all week, he had to be mean and pushy to many a person to drink their water or get to first aid. He jokingly rolled one lady to get help and told her that he would be treating her as if he were her grandson. She was grateful, but worried he would miss work by helping her and he answered, that this was his job, helping her.
    It is our jobs as sisters and brothers in Christ to help, but a hard dance in this self sufficient, I can do it! world we live in.

  19. Simply Darlene

    I ask for help when I need. Is that nice? My way stubborn, single parent mother never asked for help. My way determined husband never does either.

    One time I arranged for an old farmer down the road to just “stop by” one morning when I knew my husband was going to move some railroad ties by himself. He wouldn’t let me help as I was pregnant.

    However, when I cleaned the house and put on a pot of coffee I blew my own cover. I spilled the beans to my husband and then he pretended not to know a thing. You shoulda seen that farmer wink at me on the sly! It was a good day.

    As you well-know, I have shown up on your inbox doorstep more times than either of us can count. I don’t know that God calls us to be stubborn, but he does call us to love. I reckon love is a 2-way street.


  20. Kelly Sauer

    Oh wow. This hits too close to home. I got a call from LL Barkat on Tuesday after I shared with Claire how I was really doing, and I realized that perhaps I have not asked for help as I should have. But we are alone here; we don’t have a support system around us, people offering to make us meals, be in our lives, love on us. We’ve been unable to get involved in a church because of my health, and I never know how much is too much to ask a person.

    Thank you for this, for sharing your own open heart, and the times that you need and don’t want to say yes because you don’t want to take advantage or be a burden. It helps me somehow.


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