4 Reasons To Not Be Nice
Being nice is awesome. A simple “thank you” to your waiter when he brings you food, letting the person behind you in line at the grocery store go first because they have two things and you have a huge cart full of food…I like doing these things. It’s a small way to make the world a better place.
But there are times you should not be nice.
1. That dress DOES make you look fat
I am irritated by the idea in pop culture that you should never tell a woman “yes,” when she asks if this dress makes her look fat. If she’s going to be sensitive, she shouldn’t ask the other person to lie. If I ask my husband if something looks weird or dumb or fat on me, I fully expect him to tell me the truth. It hurts when he points out my muffin top or acne scars or whatever. But I asked for it.
The truth is more important than feelings. Yes, others’ feelings are important. Yes, kindness is good. But should we resort to deceit just to be polite?
Besides, there are ways around this without lying. When I’m feeling ugly, my husband tells me I’m beautiful. Sometimes, I know I’m not. I have bags under my eyes, I haven’t showered in a couple days, and I look like Frumpy Mom of the Year. Double that if I’m pregnant. But he tells me I’m beautiful anyway. Not beautiful according to normal standards, but his. Because when he looks at me, he sees ME, not just my skin, not my outsides, but me.
If we start looking at people on the inside, we won’t lie when we say, “You are beautiful.”
2. Your Marriage
Yes, of course, you should love and be kind to your spouse. Of course.
Usually when my husband annoys me the most (or I annoy him), it’s because one of us is doing something nice for the other–something nice that the other person doesn’t even want!
You know how it is. And because they’re doing it to be nice, you then feel obliged to say thank you and act appreciative, even though you don’t care for it at all. And that feels awkward and weird and slightly like lying.
So now you have this tension and frustration, all because someone was trying to be nice.
3. Your instinct tells you something is wrong.
I had a frightening experience the other day that could have gone horribly wrong if I didn’t listen to my instincts.
I was running at twilight and there was someone in my path, about 1/4 mile further down. At the time, I tried to shake off the nagging feeling that something was off, because it was probably just some random person walking a public path, but then I decided to listen to that nagging feeling and veered off to head home. Fortunately, I lived only three houses down from the path, because he started FOLLOWING ME. In his trenchcoat on a warm day, with an abnormally quick pace, in my direction. I haven’t sprinted that fast in a long time.
When I mentioned that experience on Facebook, a friend recommended the book The Gift of Fear, which I immediately picked up from the library. In the book, the author mentions how people who are going to perpetrate violent crimes (like rape and murder) will often “interview” people first to see how easily they can be turned into a victim. And the tactics they use in the “interview” basically measure how nice you are–and how willing you are to let your niceness rule over you.
Example: they’ll offer to help carry groceries and, if you say no, they’ll shrug it off and keep helping. If you let them ignore your no answer, you’re marking yourself as a victim. Obviously, not every nice person is out to get you, but if you feel wrong about something, don’t let them help you. Be RUDE. It’s better to be a jerk to a nice person with good intentions than to be a victim. As I read this section of the book, I felt myself resisting. “But he’s probably a nice person…I just can’t be mean like that!” But the author is right. I’d rather be a little unkind in shunning a good person who approached me oddly than to be dead or raped.
4. Other people’s values conflict with your own
One of the curses (and benefits) of being nice is empathy. While empathy helps you connect with and truly understand others, it also can dilute the importance of your own beliefs and values. If you understand completely why someone drinks coffee, though it’s against your beliefs to drink coffee yourself, sometimes your belief feels diminished. After all, it’s sensible that they drink coffee. It feels good for them. It gives them much-needed energy, energy you wish you had…
And then your brain starts launching justifications for that person–justifications that apply directly to you, that weaken your resolve to stand by your beliefs.
There needs to be a wall. I’m not saying stop empathizing, but put a wall around your beliefs and values. Empathize with someone up to a point, but never let your empathy cross a line.
Example: I understand perfectly why people get abortions, it makes sense to them, but my wall is set–I fully believe abortion is murder and I choose to not empathize beyond simple understanding. I will not justify them. I will not allow my explanations of their behavior seep into my values and beliefs.
It’s a fine line, but there is a space to be understanding without compromising your values. But sometimes, to protect your values and beliefs, you must stop being nice and stand firm.
The leaders in my church recently did this admirably. At mormonsandgays.com, the leaders stand firm–marriage is and can only be between a man and a woman–but show love and kindness toward homosexuals. Firm in values, not compromising, but still understanding towards others. It’s a hard balance, but they did it well. And so can you.
How to not be nice
1. Know your values and beliefs. Is truth more important than not hurting someone’s feelings? Is your safety more important than being nice? Are your values more important to you than someone else’s?
2. Don’t let anyone or anything shift your stance on those values, not even an inch.
3. If someone tries to shift you, don’t move. No matter who it is, no matter how nice they seem, no matter how trivial the situation. Never betray your values. Never check your religion at the door.
Has being nice ever been detrimental? Or does all of this sound silly? Share in the comments!
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