Not Ready To Make Nice

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “Being Your Brother’s Keeper.”

I’m tired of nice.

Seriously tired of it. Tired of being nice; far more tired of other people being nice.

Courteous, considerate, kind, polite. Those are all fine. But, nice? Let’s ditch nice. Can we?

This may be a slightly odd tack for this topic, but it’s what’s on my mind right now, so I’m writing it.

And there’s nothing wrong with being nice, per se. But for whatever reason, it seems like when people are being nice, they’re all too often “just being nice.” As is, “Do you mean it, or are you just being nice.” And it’s amazing the damage that can do.

There’s nothing wrong with being aware of people’s feelings. That’s a good thing to do. The problem comes in when you do it to someone’s detriment. The girl who leads a guy on because she’s too “nice” to tell him he doesn’t have a chance. Sure, his feelings, for the moment are saved, but at the cost of investing his time and emotion in something he shouldn’t. And, then, when the time comes when being nice is no longer an option, the blow to the feelings are even greater because of the deeper investment. The person who allows a friend to have false confidence in an ability — “oh, you sing so well” — or false security in a situation is only setting them up for disappointment.

And it’s hard, I’ll admit that. I’ve been critical of the idea of “nice” for a while now, but I’m still probably guilty of it on rare occasions. It’s hard to look someone in the eyes — especially when it’s someone you care about — and intentionally say something that’s going to hurt.

For myself, I try very hard to never say anything dishonest. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things sometimes left unsaid. And, in general, to some extent, I think that’s OK. You can’t tell everybody everything. But when that neglect becomes deceptive, particularly in a way that could be detrimental to the other person, that’s dishonest.

Because, and this gets to the core of the idea of being your brother’s keeper for me, caring about somebody doesn’t mean caring about their feelings. It means caring about their well-being. Now, their feelings may be part of that, but they’re not the entire picture. And at the point where you’re sacrificing someone’s well-being because you’re too gentle with their feelings, you’re not doing them any favors at all. And if you’re doing it because you’re not willing to hurt their feelings, that’s being selfish.

And that’s not nice at all.