For “light” reading over the break, I decided to read Anna Salter’s book, Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists, and other Sex Offenders (Basic Books, 2003). I’ve known of this book for some time and viewed her DVDs which cover a chunk of the book’s topic. **I don’t recommend you read this book at night or at all if you have any history of sexual abuse.**
The book reviews research on those who commit these kinds of crimes. What I found most helpful is her treatment of the problem of deception, common techniques, and how both the average person AND expert clinicians are easily seduced by the presentation and lies of offenders. She closes out the book with chapters on detecting deception and protecting children from abusers.
But one particular paragraph caught my eye. The context of what you read below is her discussion of the necessity of a double life (appearances of sincerity, likeability, honest, etc.) in order to gain access to children. As she says, “a surly and obnoxious person would have little access…” (p. 38)
“Niceness is a decision,” writer Gavin De Becker wrote in the The Gift of Fear. It is “a strategy of social interaction; it is not a character train.” There are days I want to tattoo this on my forehead. De Becker is right, but who believes him? (ibid)
Do you agree? Niceness is a decision not a character trait?
Niceness is an action, a behavior. Frankly, any of the fruits of the Spirit may be short-term behaviors as well. I can choose to be gentle or patient for a time. But true fruits come from Holy Spirit induced character change. But what bubbles up in us when no one is looking tells a bit more about who we really are.
We ought to be just a bit more suspicious about ourselves and be wary of the tendency to pat ourselves on the back for being nice–especially if we find ourselves doing calculations on the benefits we might receive for our good behavior.