Adults attempting to curb misbehavior often tell children to, “Be nice.” The word, nice, is a catch all term, often used in an attempt to suppress our true desires and natural reactions. But it’s problematic in its ambiguity. What does it mean to be nice? Singer Durand Bernarr explained during one of his concerts that the origin of the word nice means naive. Merriam Webster confirms this. The Latin root comes from the word nescius which meant ignorant. And over time, nice has meant a lot of different things, including lewd and wanton to chaste and virtuous.
While the definition of the word may be more collectively understood today, there’s a better alternative. Bernarr says, “Nice is what you do, kind is who you are.”
As you approach life, consider these reasons why it’s important to be less nice and more kind.
Being Nice Often Means Avoiding Conflict
Performing niceties often entails avoiding conflict and preventing people from feeling uncomfortable. While it can be a useful skill, it’s not always the appropriate response. For example, many would consider it “nice” to avoid teaching the true history of this country, complete with genocide, slavery and racial/economical oppression. It certainly would help some people feel more comfortable. But the kind thing to do is tell the truth and hope that the children of today can learn from and avoid the mistakes of their ancestors.
Kindness Is About Doing What’s Right
If you’re committed to ‘doing the right thing,’ you know that it’s not always a popular choice. There will often be naysayers. And it can be easy to go along with the crowd. But a commitment to kindness is a commitment to taking action for the greater good.
Niceness Is Often About People-Pleasing
When you live your life to please people, you miss out on discovering the truth about yourself and what choices you would make if you prioritized your own authenticity. Often what is nice is dictated by others. While some of these rules are universal. Some of them may be societal. Society’s rules can be harmful, especially to marginalized groups.
Kindness Is Rooted in Your Own Value System
When you perform an act of kindness, it says something about not only what you value in the world but what you’re willing to do to see that value come to fruition in society. For example, if you believe that people have right to food a shelter, you’re more likely to volunteer at a soup kitchen or even chose a career path that helps people transition from shelters into permanent homes.
Niceness Can Be Self-Sacrificing
Have you ever agreed to do something you really didn’t want to but felt it was the ‘right’ thing to do? Turns out, it wasn’t right. It was nice. If you do something for someone else, but resent or regret the task later, you’re people-pleasing and not operating from true kindness. Being kind is a practice that extends to yourself and the boundaries you need to honor to take care of you.
Kindness Allows for More Growth
When you’re focused on being a kind person, you’re constantly interrogating your actions. You’re asking yourself if the things you’ve said and done align with your values. If they don’t, your values may motivate you to course correct and attempt to do better in the future. The constant analyzing of our thoughts and actions helps us to become the type of person we want to be in the world.