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.

3 Responses

  1. Well said, David. I can’t count numerous times that people have avoided telling me the truth by being nice so as to not hurt my feelings. As you described about the deeper hurt later when nice no longer works. If my first wife, Temple, had been honest before we married to say that she had serious second thoughts, then I would not have invested four years of my life in good faith in an eventual losing and ill-fated venture. If anything good came of that, it taught me what to look out for and hopefully go into things with my eyes a little more wide-open. Again, great post, David!

  2. Incidentally, after I posted my response, I noticed the date of your post as June 29, 2010. I mentioned my first wife and that would have been the 14th anniversary of my first wedding. Talk about irony!!

  3. Thanks, Chris! Glad you liked it! And, yeah, that’s quite the coincidence.

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