Unless you’ve recently read Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice, you probably haven’t thought of or used the word amiable lately, a word she uses rather frequently.
Maybe it was more of a 19th-century word. However, we could probably use a revival of the word and a renewal of the behavior it embodies given our 21st-century propensity for rudeness, rage, and just bad manners.
Dictionary.com offers this definition of amiable.
1. having or showing pleasant, good-natured personal qualities; affable:
an amiable disposition.
2. friendly; sociable: an amiable greeting; an amiable gathering.
3. agreeable; willing to accept the wishes, decisions, or suggestions of another or others.
4. Obsolete. lovable or lovely.
While the Bible doesn’t specifically use the word, the idea of being amiable is found in these and many other passages.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…” –Col. 3:12
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” –Gal. 5:22-23
Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. –Rom. 14:19
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” –Col. 4:5-6
Amiability is a reflection of who we are as a disciple of Christ. It’s the way we treat our family, friends, and brethren. It even issues itself in a Christian attitude and right response toward those with whom we disagree.
In the language of the 16th century, German theologian Jakob Bohme, “The sweet quality is set opposite to the bitter and is a gracious, amiable, blessed and pleasant quality, a refreshing of the life, an allaying of the fierceness. It maketh all pleasant and friendly in every creature….”
We may think that amiability is strictly a personality trait. That some people are just more friendly, likable and good-natured than others. However, we all have a choice in our relationships to be either agreeable or disagreeable. To be kind or contentious. To be sweet or surly. To be pleasant or obnoxious. To be nice or nasty. To be friendly or unfriendly.
The Bible directive to have the attitude of Christ ((Phil. 2:5), would lead us to observe His interpersonal relationships. How He treated others. His disposition. Temperament. And outlook. Notice also how people responded to Him. Mark 12:37 says, “The common people heard Him gladly.”
The biographies of Jesus reveal His amiability in His treatment of the sick and suffering. Of sinners. Of those sorrowful. And those who were seeking Him. All of this points to the character of Christ. So, if we are to be like Him, then we have a choice regarding how we treat other people. In short, the degree of our amiability is reflected in our attitude.
Too often the person with the prickly personality who goes through life offending people, alienating others, and leaving a trail of sour associations, defends his abrasiveness by saying, “That’s just the way I am.” Well, here’s a concept to consider embodied in one word. Change.
Granted some people may seem more good-natured than others. And certainly, our experiences, background, and natural personality can affect our amiability. However, we can all work harder on treating others with kindness and showing the character of Christ.
One last thought. As William Ellery Channing observed it’s “easy to be amiable in the midst of happiness and success.” The true test of our character is to be amiable when we encounter failure and experience sorrow.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman