Have you ever met someone who seems so nice, it almost seems beyond the boundaries of reason? I by no means am saying that we should not be nice. Some of us could probably stand to be a little nicer at times. I’m talking about those who seem to be so nice that it doesn’t even seem possible.
I do believe that we should be kind, and we should also be nice whenever it is possible. But, being nice and being kind are not always the same thing. According to an article entitled Being Nice vs. Being Kind written by Kelly Shi at Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University (You can find that article by >>>Clicking Here<<<), she writes “So are “nice” and “kind” just synonyms for each other? Not exactly, according to dictionary.com. “Nice” is defined as “pleasing; agreeable; delightful”, while “kind” is defined as “having, showing, or proceeding from benevolence.””
In other words, niceness is borne from the need or desire to simply have a pleasing effect on another person, whereas kindness is borne from the need or desire to have a positive effect on another person. Niceness is more emotionally-based and is intended to bring a benefit to both the giver and recipient by making them both feel good. “Wow, you really did a great job!” could be one such compliment to achieve this goal.
Kindness is more substance-based and, while it is also intended to bring a benefit to both the giver and recipient, this benefit may be brought about even if it makes neither of them feel good. Telling someone that they are incorrect about something may not make them feel good at the moment, but if it is meant to be a benefit to them, then it is indeed a form of kindness. Ultimately it depends on your motives for doing what you do.
When showing kindness, the ultimate benefit is more important than the immediate feeling. It is because of this I believe Christians should learn the art of being kind, even if they can’t always be nice.
There seems to be this idea that we are expected to show all manner of love and niceness to people no matter the cost and all of it is under the umbrella of “love”. “Let me love you. I need to love you! You can’t be happy with me unless I love you!!”, almost as if you don’t have a choice but to receive it…or else!
This gives the impression that if you dare refuse this person’s gesture of “love” by doing something as simple as saying “No, thank you”, then you have offended them in the worst kind of way; as if their show of “love and niceness” is used as a tool to make up for some insecurity on the inside that is borne from a place of “If you reject my show of love and niceness, then you have rejected me!”, and if they feel rejected then they shut down into almost a depression of sorts.
Someone could get away with almost anything they wanted to in life doing things that way! I mean, who can say “no” to you when you are smiling the whole time and giving nice compliments, while pushing others to do what you want them to do? Yet, it seems this is what the “nice person” depends upon; the unquestioning compliance of others. Because, “You can’t just reject so much niceness…can you?”. Whether they are cognizant of it or not, it can become a form of tyranny and control, and as one person said “There is no innocent form of control”. Amen to that!
So, what should we do when engaging with this sort of person? Simply put, I have found it effective to 1) Be nice when you can, 2) Don’t be afraid to establish boundaries. The phrase “No, thank you” is a perfectly satisfactory boundary to establish and maintain, even with the nicest of people, and 3) Be kind always, even when you can’t be nice. Saying “No, thank you” over and over kindly but firmly is one such approach.
By establishing such a boundary, you won’t always give the other person a pleasant feeling of niceness, but it will be a benefit to both of you in the long run, and if they really want to show love, they will lovingly respect your boundaries.
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One thought on “The Tyrannical Use of Love and Niceness”
Very interesting blog. I loved it!!