Being a Box in a Cage: How Being Nice Makes You a Jerk
There’s being nice, and there’s being kind. To be kind is to behave with empathy, while niceness has restraint or falseness. Kindness is work! It comes from you - it’s what you want to do, with no pressure or no one watching. It’s what’s best for the other person.
But niceness tricks our ego into thinking it’s kindness. At the most harmless level, it makes us feel good about ourselves for doing some superficial, easy crap. Like saying “bless you” or “happy birthday.” At it’s most dangerous, it makes us feel good about leading a completely dishonest life. It adds up a million times when we did something we didn’t want to, when we say we agree to keep the peace, when we don’t share our feelings of hurt or frustration, when we don’t share our better ideas. It adds this up into years of being a smiling sycophant, who everybody gets along with, but nobody really respects, although no one can articulate quite why.
This happens because confrontation sucks. It’s easier to just do the damn thing than say no, or to just keep your mouth shut. It’s especially easier because then your brain gets to think “I’m so nice, look at all this stuff I do for people, I get along with everyone.”
But then you get older and your superficial relationships get lost. Those close to you either don’t know you, or feel like you are holding back. You are overworked. You stop thinking of opinions, because you know you won’t share them. You lose your quirks because you mimic others. You slowly fall asleep in a grey lonely haze of niceness.
I believe that behavior and thinking can change. That’s why I’m trying to be honest. That’s why I don’t allow myself to take pride in being nice anymore. It’s time to be an ethical jerk.
Part of my planned ongoing series of thinkiness.