The problem with being nice is that niceness looks and feels like patience, kindness, humility, etc; and it looks and feels like it deserves all of that in return.
Nice people are likeable and easy to trust, forgive, love, and so on; but the problem is that life is no respector of niceness. Rain and sunshine happen to all of us indiscriminately: to those who think they deserve more sun than rain, as well as those who believe that rain comes as a deserved punishment for something they did — life simply happens unmitigated.
What’s being nice and isn’t it a wonderful thing?
Being nice is to come across as roughly wonderful, to just inspire goodwill and niceness; to look like you deserve to be given a break, at the very least. It’s to be hard to associate with evil. Isn’t that a wonderful thing?
The problem is that because nice people think they are nice: when niceness fails to stop the rain, they stop thinking it’s worthwhile denying themselves all the pleasures of always saying exactly what’s on their mind and indulging in the stuff they crave. They fall back to being themselves with a renewed (and often heightened) appetite and a sense of entitlement to be less than nice, as if all their niceness has earned them the right to no longer be nice, or at least to be authentic.
If it sounds vague, it’s because it is. It’s nothing specific and that’s one more thing about people who stop at being nice: they vaguely avoid wrongness and favour rightness with equal generality and it’s the easiness of vagueness that fails to inspire the diligence required by the thing that niceness looks like, which I’ll losely call goodness. It’s often nice people who stand by while evil people rob, kill, steal, and be themselves in other ways; and like everything that we don’t understand: when two-year-olds ask us difficult and pertinent questions about it, we resort to threats, watered-down stories, and anything else that helps us avoid the question.
Not surprisingly, nice people raise nice people, who raise nice people… and that’s where all of today’s niceness came from. Otherwise, we were all two-year-olds one day and we were on the right side of the hard questions and it wouldn’t necessarily have been catastrophic if grownups had admitted that they didn’t have the answers and were, perhaps, too scared and sometimes ill-equipped for some of life’s surprises and that needn’t have come in the way of them parenting us the best way they know how to, anyway. It would have, in fact, taught us that everybody only needs give the best that THEY know how, and it’s enough.
Nice people tend to delegate the work of goodness to Karma — which is supposed to bring around whatever goes around — like that carousel at the airport that brings around whatever baggage you checked in. Nice people live life avoiding questions like “why do bad things happen to good people?” It turns out that karma is actually a Hinduism concept that sort of means good or bad luck depending on one’s actions, and nice people like it because it’s like getting revenge without incriminating yourself or getting off your moral higher ground.
One more thing about niceness is that nice folks might die before Karma does anything with evil people. You know, no matter what happens to Oscar Pistorius today, Reeva’s story ended when nothing stopped Oscar’s onslaught on her. Karma is not going to end poverty, war, and disease in Africa, will not return stolen land in South Africa, and although what goes up must come down, not everything that escaped us went up. Some things didn’t go up — they are still down here somewhere and they won’t come back if we don’t fetch them; and some cannot even be fetched anyway, like the love that turned out to be but a lesson to be learned.
Sometimes we just need to let go, learn our lesson and move on; because Karma will not reverse the damage. Evil thrives in the face of niceness, but what separates good men and women from nice people is the compassion that made the skinny guy in the Spur video to jump over the table to stop the big guy who was about to assault the woman who might have not even thanked him after the whole thing ended.I bet he hadn’t thought of what exactly he was going to stop him with, but I believe it’s him who deterred the assailant when the restaurant clearly had no plans to call for help.
The goal is not to look and feel patient, kind, humble, etc; the goal is to BE all that and more. What we are doesn’t improve when it’s sunny and deteriorate when it rains. It just persists even when we might get beaten up; and when two year olds ask why bad things happen to good people, we should be able to immediately tell them that goodness is not for profit, nor is it a refuge from the storms of life; goodness is to be true to everything you believe — all the time — regardless of who’s on which side of the hard question of the day. Goodness is to say “I don’t know” without fear of losing dignity, because sometimes, the truth is that we actually don’t know.
Goodness is to do your best with what you have, where you are; and when all is said and done, what went up will come down indeed, but we won’t need to appeal to Karma for it to come down; and if, when it comes down, we are not around to witness it, we should feel no less satisfied than if we were.
Are nice people lazy? Not necessarily. They just need the balance to keep what they earn, give what they can, and the serenity to never cry over spilt milk. Life happens to all of us indiscriminately.