Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Nicey Nice

"She considers it a part of her moral code to be nice and kind to everyone."

This phrase came floating into my world a couple of weeks ago, via Roo, and its stuck it the forefront of my mind ever since. My first reaction was "Wow, that must be hard." And then, "That's really good. That would be a really good way to be." It stuck on that note for a long time and kept me wondering.

It is not a part of my moral code to be nice and kind to everyone. To not be cruel to anyone, yes, but to be kind to everyone? Nope. I try to be kind to my friends, family, and the like, but everyone else....eh.

I'm sort of an isolationist when it comes to everyone. Leave me alone and I'll leave you alone. I appreciate the northeast because the pressure to chat it up with every living soul is minimal. I don't have to hear about the entire day of my cashier, nor do I have to spill my guts to her. If I'm having a day where I don't want to say anything at all besides "thanks", that's a-okay. I like that, even though it may be a little whacked.

But even with that, I'm usually on the more kind end of the spectrum than not with the anonymous people that I encounter. But then there's the other people. The people who are just truly difficult to be kind toward. People who are cruel, people who think little of anyone but themselves, people who cheat, lie, etc... I find it extremely difficult to be kind to these people.

On the one hand, my brain says, "Why not? Is it really going to hurt you to be kind to these people? Will it really take anything away from your life to do this? Come on...it's just a little dose of kindness." That thought process quickly ends, for many reasons.

I cannot be kind or even warm to someone who I know is an ass hole, to someone who I know is hurting someone who doesn't deserve to be hurt. I cannot be kind to someone who has hurt me, especially if I know (sure, suspect) that they would gladly do it again. Hell, I can rarely even be kind when a driver waits to long to go after the light turns green. And normally, I'm okay with this. I'm not a pretender and I consider it to be part of my moral code to not be ingenuine. But knowing that there are people out there who would be kind to all of these people, who would be able to rise above all of that and pull off some kindness makes me feel.......lesser.....petty....and just generally like a bad person.

I encounter someone, daily, who is a perfect example. I think he's a horrible person who doesn't give a shit about anyone or anything that doesn't give him some cha-ching in his wallet. Oh wait, I don't just think that, he's said that. And I find it pretty impossible to be kind to him. I can be cordial, at best, but my loathing really overflows into my everyday actions/attitude toward him. Part of me feels bad about that. Part of me thinks its okay because it's like a tiny little personal protest. "If you're an ass hole, you don't get any kindness from me. Shape up, buddy!" But, we (yes, all of us in my head) are a little skeptical that this would have any effect at all, much less the desired one. And the sweet minority in my head says, "Kindness heals...maybe he'll be a better person if he gets some kindness." And the outraged majority in my head says, "Right. Tried that. No deal."

The bottom line is that I'm not going to change anyone with kindness or with snark. So that whole paragraph above? You just wasted a few seconds of your life there. But maybe I would feel better being more kind, maybe I'd feel more.....I dunno. More open? Happy? Like a better person? I don't know. Going out of my way to be kind to assholes really makes me feel conflicted. Really makes me feel like I'm giving the green light to some bad shit.

So, though I've been thinking daily, "I really should be more kind to everyone," I really haven't gotten too far with it.

What do you guys think?


Anonymous Nancy said...

Hmm. That is tough. I do try to be nice to most people, to give them the benefit of the doubt. UNLESS I see them being intentionally mean, or intentionally breaking the law/social mores, or if I think other people are trying to take advantage of someone. Then I can range from tolerant, sickly-sweet to intolerant and outwardly scornful depending on the type and severity of the transgression.

Sometimes I do miss the atmosphere of the northeast, the anonymity of not having to make small talk if you don't know someone. Other times I find myself going out of my way to smile at strangers, to give someone an extra compliment or do something nice if I sense that they need it.

My goal in 2006 -- well, one of them -- is to focus more on showing the love to the people I truly care about. So I think this would translate to being extra kind to a select group, and being generally kind to everyone else. Unless, of course, they piss me off as described above. ;-)

5:05 PM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

I try to treat others the way I'd like to be treated. I try to show my friends and family how I feel about them every day. I try to be good to myself, too. People that I think aren't deserving of me, I try to stay away from. If I do have to see them, I try to be civil and adult about it, but I certainly don't go out of my way to be nice to them.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

Geez, I could have written this. Literally. I have a list of post ideas and one of the ideas that has been on my list the longest, that I just haven't been able to gel into any kind of coherence is "Why I can't be nice to some people". (And when I say can't, I mean that pathologically)
I feel the exact same way V. I really do try to treat other people with dignity and respect, no matter who they are and what I think of them. But sometimes it is really hard to do.
And sometimes, It's exhausting. Especially when you know your kindness is being wasted.
So I make decisions about who not to waste my energy on. And usually if you get put into that category, it's hard for me to take you out again. But I will say it takes a lot to get put there in the first place. You have to be a real dickhead :o)

7:31 PM  
Blogger Iamadesigner said...

I agree with Mama T. I have my moments of selfish behaviour but in general I try my best to put myself in the other persons shoes. The important thing for me is to not take someone else's behaviour personally. I'm not big on these kind of books but have you ever read "The four agreements?" It deals a lot with these issues.

10:25 PM  
Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

I'm a Christian and so live with the command to love my enemies. Damn. I need to find another religion.

I like the Buddhist ideal of practicing compassion with yourself and with others. I think that helps pave the way to acts of kindness and love.

I think I tend to go easy on judging people. I will myself to think the best of others, to focus on the good, but yes, there are some people who are in-your-face assholes and I don't make an effort with them. And then I think that in not making an effort, I'm on my way to being an asshole myself.

So I struggle. And I pray. And I hope I'm making progress because yeah, I do want to be the person who is always kind to others because I think every act of kindness, especially undeserved kindness, is a powerful force in the world. That's the power of Christianity for me...that all of us in our vary states of moral failure, don't get what we deserve, we get more than we deserve.

8:56 AM  
Blogger SO said...

Ahhhh, Yep, I hear ya!! I am the same exact way. It just gives me a little gratification being mean to someone who is mean to other people!! They don't deserve niceness.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Ok, honestly? I am by no means kind to everyone. I am probably one of the nicest people you would ever meet, but by God, if you're one of the people like the man you described, I actually GET JOY out of knowing that YOU know how much I hate you. Maybe this also makes me one of the most evil people you would ever meet. I don't know. And truthfully, I don't care. There really ISN'T goodness in everyone. Some people actually just fucking suck.

9:14 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Deep thoughts when I've only had once mocha this morning...

I pretty much suck at being nice to mean or annoying people. It's something I've been thinking about lately, too, but I haven't gotten very far with it...

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Hill said...

LMAO at Melissa's comment, but I must agree.

Some. people. just. suck.

This is the way I see it:

Niceness requires effort. I am willing to make the effort as long as it is returned. If not, fuck 'em.

I can always turn to my blog buddies for kindness... =)

11:38 AM  
Blogger The Gradual Gardener said...

Sometimes being excessively nice (to the point of being sarcastic) to mean people can be gratifying, if they "get it". When they don't, it's just easier to just give them the bird.

3:57 PM  
Anonymous stella said...

so this past weekend we are outside working on a railing for our decripit front porch...per our buyers request. okay no wait...i supervised...finance did all the work. oh! and i painted.

so anyway, this dude comes riding by on his bicycle and does a uturn staring at our house. he comes back and starts asking a bunch of friendly questions, about us, our home, our vacant lot we owned next door...our dogs, our cars, and our sex life. just kidding. but he definately wasn't going anywhere. and i sat there and i answered his questions, in an effort to be friendly, while finance had his BACK TO THE MAN THE ENTIRE FRIGGIN TIME.

he was completely not interested in talking to dude. and he does that with lots of people.

his theory is 'i don't know dude from jack, why the hell am i going to waste my time talking to him on a sunday afternoon?'...

my feeling is....'be nice, dammit, turning your back to someone who is trying to talk to you is rude'. and it always leaves me feeling obligated to entertain whomever it is we are conversing with.

and i hate that...b/c i am such an enabler.

on the airplane...i will listen to AND talk with the stranger. he will smile and pretend to fall asleep . and think nothing of hurting strangers feelings.


5:24 PM  
Anonymous rt said...

I have to say, i don't understand being nice for niceness's sake. And i think that fact betrays that i'm northeast born and raised, ha!

there's nothing more satisfying that getting through the day's errands and work with a minimal of false cheery caring. Get in, get out, everybody does their job and doesn't need to know every last detail of everyone else's life. I was shocked and discombobulated when i visited the midwest and every store clerk and their cousin was chatting me up. they don't know me from Adam, why do they care??

Stella, what broke my patriarchy-trained sense of having to be nice to everyone, whether i wanted to be or not? this phrase: your need creates no sense of obligation in me.

all that said - it's satisfying to be nice to someone who is nice. unless they're being a passive aggressive jerk about it.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Kind is a heavy word. It's different than nice. Nice is like, "Hello. I'm good, thanks, and you. That's great! Is that a new jacket? I love the color..."
Whereas, to me, kind is "God she's so annoying, but look at that bastard she's married to. I'll cut her some slack for that, but hell no will I let her corner me and go on and on about her last gyno visit in that nasally, whiny voice."

I do my very best to be kind, but I am not always nice.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

My word? Authentic.

I try always to be Authentic. But i don't seek out shit I don't want and I don't ask unless I really want to know.

That fake nice sets my teeth on edge. But i do admire the occasional person who is authentically nice - a happy, nice person.

7:03 PM  
Anonymous roo said...

V, now I'll be thinking about "Genuine."

I think everyone deserves fairness. I think cultivating a sense of compassion for others carries its own reward. But I don't think everyone deserves kindness. And I don't think any good can come from constantly stamping down one's actual feelings in an attempt to be nice.

But I think I told you this in the car...

2:14 AM  

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