2007-08-11

What's wrong with being nice?

A few weeks ago in church, our bishop gave a talk in which he complemented the ward membership for some of our better traits. He said, "You're all good ... and nice ..." At which point, everybody laughed, including me. The Bishop quickly defended himself, "being nice is a good thing!"

I wonder why we all automatically laughed, and then it dawned on me that the connotation of "nice" has changed significantly. Think of the words you would use to describe someone who you've met, but you don't really find attractive. Often, I think you'd say, "well, she's very nice..." Or, at the end of a date, have you ever heard the words, "Listen, I think you're really nice, but..." or, "I had a nice time, but..."

It seems that when someone is labeled as nice, it's implied that something else is missing or that being nice isn't enough. What I want to know is: where's the shame in being nice?

I bring this up because I try to be a "nice" guy, and I don't want to be lumped together with all that generic and meaningless "niceness" being thrown around. So, once and for all, I unabashedly declare that I AM NICE. However, that does not mean that I'm overly sensitive, weak, naive, a pushover, or ill-equipped for modern society. In contrast, I'm nice because I enjoy it. I've learned that being helpful, courteous, and kind is much more fulfilling that being sarcastic, rude, and self-serving.**

Let me provide one example. Throughout high school, I felt largely unremarkable. I belonged to none of the typical groups and had no claim to notoriety. But after three years, when it came time to graduate, I was quite literally surprised to realize how many people actually knew who I was and how many of those were genuine friends. I'm quite sure that this hidden popularity is almost entirely attributable to "being nice."

That's why it is so frustrating that the adage "nice guys/girls finish last" seems to be coming true more and more often, particularly in dating, but fortunately less so as I grow older. I declare that there's nothing wrong with being nice. And, as tempted as I might be to discard my current persona in favor of one that's cooler and edgier, I don't think I could ever be happy that way. I think the same is true for all of us. Let's declare that there's nothing wrong with being NICE!


**WARNING: The author may appear to be describing himself as a saint. He wishes to warn his readers that this is not so, that he actually is frequently sarcastic and inadvertently mean, but on the whole, he tries to be nice.