Tuesday, July 31, 2012

That's Nice

If nice guys always finish last, why do we keep being nice? What is so great about being nice? If I said, "How was your Disney vacation?" Would the answer be a ho-hum, "Oh, it was nice." If I asked, "How was your ride in the Lamborghini?" Would the answer be, "It was everything you'd expect...very nice." Even when talking about the weather, nice isn't bad, but even pleasant is more exciting than nice. And again, if it's only gonna get you last place, why bother?

And yet, I've always considered myself to be one of the nice girls. I've diligently instilled the nice principle into my children's psyche. Or at least I've tried. I guess that's because I've never really been competitive. I suppose I didn't mind finishing last as long as I got a chance to smile at everyone while they passed me. So it surprises me still that more than one of my children has grown up with the attitude that is basically akin to "If he didn't want me to punch him, I guess his face shouldn't have been in the way of my hand." Competitive to the Nth degree and not very nice.

There is a great Sondheim song from Into the Woods, sung by the witch who is trying to talk the other characters into giving into the demands of an angry giant in order to save mankind. The lyrics go like this:

 You're so nice.

You're not good,

You're not bad,

You're just nice.

I'm not good,

I'm not nice,

I'm just right.

I'm the witch.

You're the world.

I love this song because it reminds me that nice isn't always good. In fact, it can sometimes be the opposite. After all, God doesn't call us to do "nice", He calls us to do good. Actually, I think we may be called to do more than that. I think we are actually called to do "right". The right thing is not always the good thing or the nice thing. And a person can certainly seem like a witch when the world is so busy trying to be nice, they forget to be right. It kind of makes me want to channel my inner witch.

I think the thing that makes me the proudest is to know that my kids usually do the right thing. Ok, so they have also been to known to weigh the right thing against the funny thing and come out laughing, but most of the time they choose right. While they don't normally actually punch people in the face, they are pretty good about not taking on someone else's blame. Which is a good and right thing, too.

I asked a very wise man once why the nice ones keep on being so if they are always going to be last. His answer--because some of us want to get to heaven. I have to say that I think nice would probably get you there. But so will good and right. The important thing is to head in that direction. And when we get there, I know it will be nice. Very, very nice. Maybe even pleasant.


  1. Theoretical comment....if being nice and making sure noone gets hurt or feels badly really fair when it is absolutely NOT nice to yourself.....physically, emotionally, and mentally damaging your own self for the sake of others is truly the way entire generations of women have been brought up...and it definitely is NOT good or right! Thank you for putting "nice" into perspective!

  2. Kelly, I'm glad you get it! I've spent most of my adult life trying not to be the reason anyone else feels bad (which I've written about in previous posts). It's way too much pressure and, you're right, not very nice to me. The balance is difficult. Thank you so much for adding your thoughts. You rock!