I wrote this last year after the nature of a few of my relationships changed. I realized that it wasn’t the other person that changed, it was me. I’d decided I no longer wanted to pretend to be ok with the way things were, and as a consequence, I was probably no longer considered by them to be very nice. Welcome to my “new nice.”
A friend recently released a children’s book called Nice to be Nice. She’s also a blogger, so we frequently find ourselves discussing the nice and not so nice behavior of the people around us. Whether it’s the mother allowing her toddler to scream his way through the grocery store, or it’s the man who, tiring of the display, smacks the kid square in the mouth, something’s just a bit off in society today. I think some adults have forgotten, and many kids just don’t know that it really is nice to be nice. That said, as I get older I find myself embracing a different kind of nice.
In my twenties, being nice meant having conversations with people I knew were lying to me, and not calling them on it. It meant being so concerned about hurting someone else’s feelings that I allowed them to hurt mine. It meant being aware of people’s negative attitudes but pretending to be ok with it anyway. And it meant doing things I didn’t want to do, even when I knew doing them wasn’t right for me. I did all of those things because I wanted to be nice. I didn’t want to rock the boat, and I wanted to avoid having certain conversations with certain people, at all cost.
But I had a light bulb moment almost ten years ago. I wrote about it last week, in the best advice I ever got. It was during this conversation that my friend asked me why I got so upset when she did and said the things she did and said. The same things she’d been doing and saying for years. She was absolutely right to ask the question. And for years, I’d been too “nice” to tell her that many of the things she’d done had hurt me deeply. To preserve the friendship I let those things slide. As a result, I grew to resent her, and more importantly myself, for not thinking enough of myself to end a friendship that had become toxic. I vowed then, never again to be “so nice” that I lose myself in the process.
For the most part, I’ve kept my promise. While the 20’s me would ignore my spirit telling me “girl, now you know something is wrong with this picture” the soon to be 40 me has a BS meter so finely calibrated that I can spot a crock while it’s still being formed in someone’s head and shut it down before it has a chance to do damage. It’s a great skill to have. Having it means that sometimes I stop BS-ers dead in their tracks. As a result, BS-ers do not think I’m nice. Neither do people who always want something for nothing, people who take others for granted, nor do the married men whom I immediately shut down when they, wedding ring securely on ring finger, “just want to holler at me for a minute.” These people don’t think I’m nice, and I don’t want them to.
Over the years, I’ve lost sight of my “new nice” a few times, but these days it’s much easier to be me, even if it means someone doesn’t like me. I help old people cross the street, offer rides to friends in need and genuinely wish real joy and success for everyone who crosses my path. I celebrate when the underdog wins and I’m frustrated when the greedy seem to prosper on the backs of the weak. I’m as nice as the next guy – or girl. But I’ve tempered my niceness with a bit of wisdom. My mother would call it discernment. I call it my “new nice.”