I am not nice.
Not at all.
I used to be nice. I used be very nice. But not anymore. Why?
Because I learned the difference between being nice and being kind. NIceness is focused on pleasing others at the expense of Self. Kindness is focused on love and respect for Self and others.
When I was nice, it was because I wanted to win the acceptance and approval of others. Every time I was nice, it was at the expense of my self worth.
When we insist on someone being nice, we are effectively telling them that we do not and will not like them unless they behave in a way that is pleasing to us. This hidden message is most apparent, and most detrimental, when told to children.
A couple of days ago my two year old niece Harper was fidgety at the dinner table. Her attention was on Curious George rather than her food. Her mom (my youngest sister), wanting for Harper to finish dinner, encouraged her to eat up before bath time. Harper replied with a firm “NO!”, and threw some food on the table. My sister attempted to correct this outburst by saying “Harper, not nice.”
And there it was! The hidden message of “being nice.” I heard and saw the conditioning and oppression of nice right before my eyes. By saying “not nice,” my sister was telling Harper that she needed to be nice in order to be liked.
Don’t get me wrong. My sister is a great mom, and she does everything a single mother can do to raise her daughter. She didn’t intend to tell Harper that she wouldn’t be liked unless she complied with “being nice.” She was just trying to instill good manners at the dinner table.
(Disclaimer…I am not a parent, nor have I ever been a parent. So I can only begin to imagine the difficulty of teaching a child good values while at the same time instilling discipline).
The point is, the oppression of nice begins early on in life. As early as two years old. And if you’re still not convince, recall the lyrics of the song “Santa Clause is Coming to Town.”
You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He’s making a list
He’s checking it twice;
He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
The message is that Santa Clause is coming, and the child will only get a gift if she doesn’t cry or pout, and is nice.
Is it any wonder then that many individuals grow up to be people pleasers who are nice to everybody else except themselves? Individuals who suppress their true identity, and fear being their true Self because they don’t want to be “mean”, “naughty” or “not nice?”
THE POWER OF KINDNESS
Logic doesn’t penetrate the heart and spirit of a person. Only kindness does.
It washes over a person’s heart, melting icy indifference with compassionate caring and warm respect. It softens the hardened heart with soft tones of understanding. It recognizes the worth of the spirit, and honors it as divinely great.
When I learned to love and respect myself, kindness naturally blossomed and radiated to everyone I met. I saw we are all worthy of love and respect, and that we are all trying our best under our own particular circumstances. I understood that the only acceptance and approval needed was from Father.*
*(when I say Father, I mean God. You may use another term for Her/Him: Gaia, Spirit, Source, etc. Father is the one I prefer).
A person filled with love and respect for Self and others will naturally be kind. She will think of others as herself. She will serve out of love. She will set healthy boundaries and know how to say no. She will listen to others compassionately, and keep her own voice.
Kindness leaves an indelible mark on the heart and spirit. It improves living and working environments. It strengthens relationships. It affects generations to come. The kindness you show today will ripple into future.