By Rebecca Nielsen
A friend posted the above quote a few weeks ago and it struck me. I mean, REALLY struck me. Read it again.
Often times I pat myself on the back for being a nice person. After all, the world needs more nice people, right? And I am doing my part to fulfill the quota of niceness. I strike up small-talk with the local grocery clerk. I always respond to people politely. I try to smile at strangers. You know - I do my best to make sure people see that I’m nice.
But what good does that really do? Of course, it doesn’t hurt a thing to be well mannered. But does my emphasis on tact make a real difference in people’s day? Do they actually allow me to connect with people on a higher level? It kind of hurts to admit it, but here’s the answer: No. In fact, sometimes these routine niceties even prevent real relationships from evolving and I think we don’t even realize it.
I have a neighborhood friend that I’ve known for years. I smile & wave every time we pass each other. I’m nice to her. But one day last year, I actually stopped to talk. I came to find out her husband had left her a year earlier and that she didn’t have enough flour in her pantry to make her child a birthday cake.
I was mortified. “How could I have not noticed?” I thought to myself. “If I’d only known, I’d have been more than happy to support her!” But that’s just it - I didn’t know. I didn’t know because I hadn’t taken the time to find out. I had been nice, but certainly not kind.
Through some actual action, some friends and I were able to provide help and support to our very deserving neighbor. It was an incredible experience. It changed me. The smiles and waves were nice, but the action we took was kind. And now I find myself working to make sure that from now on, my acts of kindness come from who I truly am rather than who I want people to think I am.
Here’s the thing: being nice and being kind don’t have to be separate. They can certainly complement each other and we definitely need both. But have you ever been so nice to someone that you had no idea you weren’t being kind? True kindness connects people. It’s empathy, love, and action. It can be real and tangible. And it’s needed now more than ever before. So take some time to think today: are you nice, or are you kind?
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