“Be nice.” How many times have you heard that? Have you ever given any thought to what it really means?
“Nice” is “fake polite.” You adopt “niceness” in order to assimilate within a group and endear yourself to particular people. “Niceness” is at best a “pleasantly inoffensive” persona that is completely oriented toward benefiting in some manner from association. “Niceness” is solely about what you stand to gain from aligning yourself with certain people.
“Niceness” does not mean respect, fairness, regard, or anything that goes beyond self-interest, be it material gain, romantic prospects, or professional elevation. “Niceness” – and the expectation of it at all levels of the social hierarchy – is a tool built to allow people to exploit others and quite possibly even themselves in hopes of some benefit. It places all manner of relationships on either a transactional or entitlement level.
“If you’re nice, I’ll (treat you nice in return).”
“Since I’m being nice to you, I expect you to (do this for me).”
“Everyone would be nice to you if you were a nice person.”
“Niceness” is one of the most toxic behaviors known to mankind and yet we all do it to some degree. It’s about preserving social order and balance at all costs. You know which things weren’t nice? The Civil Rights movement wasn’t nice. All these people talking about Jim Crow and Voting Rights for minorities were upsetting the Southern Majority. Not nice. They should have just shut up and worked on winning the majority over! A female employee filing a lawsuit for sexual harassment against the popular and well-respected male CEO? Not nice. How DARE she endanger the good name of the company or the CEO? Clearly, she must have done something to encourage him. “Niceness” means don’t rock the boat!
Put simply: Nothing about “niceness” is concerned with justice, equity, regard, or even safety.
Now, what about kindness?
Kindness is being fully and genuinely invested in the care and well-being of all parties involved. Kindness will call out the pastor for behavior that is not Christ-like, even if it upsets him or other people. Kindness will place the welfare of people over profit, even if it is inconvenient. Kindness will address the elephant in the room even when it is more comfortable to ignore that it exists. Kindness respects the inherent dignity and humanity of your brother and sister, even when society discards them.
Kindness goes far beyond a surface persona or mask and penetrates all the way to who you actually are as a person.
“Niceness” is all about how others see you.
Some of the “nicest” people you will ever meet are quietly plotting your destruction while they smile in your face. Some of the “nicest” people are figuring out the best and most efficient way of using you into the ground. There are “nice” people who have adopted passive aggression as a means to sabotage you. There are “nice” people who speak out of both sides of their mouths because they don’t want anyone to realize what they are really up to.
And guess what?
None of those “nice” people are actually KIND.
Know the difference. Recognize the difference. Live the difference.
Choose to be kind. Being kind has nothing to do with whether or not other people “like” or “approve” of you. It has everything to do with acting in the best interests of everyone involved.
Jesus was kind, not nice.