Not Nice

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

 

I wonder when America chose being nice as its highest value. Was it just since movies and television? We have several old photos of ancestors, and one common thread, no matter what branch of the family, is that they are not smiling. You get the impression that they were not nice people. Today, everybody puts on phony smiles so they can pretend to be nice, but maybe being nice wasn’t such a high value back then.

Sometime someone decided that we should all be nice. We were told to be nice to our siblings and praised for being nice children. No matter what someone was doing, we could get them in trouble by accusing them of not being nice. We wore nice clothes, drew nice pictures, acted nice on the playground, and said our prayers like nice little boys and girls. And, somehow, that was supposed to be more spiritual.

But being nice also meant not telling the whole truth much of the time. Just keep your opinions to yourself. It meant not dealing with abuses done by those who weren’t so nice. It meant not bringing up those abuses, even to those who could do something about them. Our goal was not to be honest or forthright or strong, just to be nice.

Nice people became prey for the predators, food for the hungry users and abusers. Churches still do nothing about abuses because the leaders are bound to portraying themselves as nice. Church discipline isn’t nice. Confronting people with their sins isn’t nice. And, since we are all so willing to suffer to be seen as nice, leaders are willing to let people suffer. We just want a nice church.

Years ago I found a coffee cup with a grumpy character on it and the words, “No More Mr. Nice Guy!” I had it on my desk one day when someone who disagreed with me saw it and said, “What do you mean, ‘no more’?” In other words, she thought I had stopped being nice when I disagreed with her on something. And maybe I was never all that nice.

You see, I believe the church should confront the abuser and cannot let the abused feel alone and abandoned. I have had to do it several times and I hated it every time. It wasn’t nice and some of the people thought I wasn’t nice. People left our church because we stood up for those who were being hurt and confronted the ones who were judgmental and unkind. My only regret was in not doing it earlier in several cases.

The word, “nice,” has an interesting history. It comes to us from Latin, through Old French and Middle English, and means—are you ready?—stupid! It suggested a simpleton who didn’t know when someone was being cruel or antagonistic. We can imagine someone with a silly grin on his face as people taunt him. To be nice was to misunderstand what was going on.

Well, isn’t that about right? In our desire to be nice, we allow the narcissists and abusers to control churches and governments and families. We stand there with stupid grins on our faces while they say whatever they want no matter how much it hurts us. (I’m sorry, I know that hits close to home.) We let them get by with their nastiness time after time. And, all the while, they think of us as stupid.

Someone might say, “Well, doesn’t the Bible tell us to be nice?” Nope! Not once. It tells us to be patient and compassionate and kind and loving and generous and even willing to suffer, but not to be nice. I don’t think Jesus was nice. I think He was gracious and giving and happy, but few people would refer to Him as nice. And no one would refer to the Father as nice. Loving, yes. Nice, no.

There are times when we ought to call others on their behavior. There are times when we should speak up and challenge unkind statements or actions. Church and organization leaders and government officials should stop worrying about what others will think and just do the right thing. If to be nice means that we stand by while others are hurt, then being nice is not being good. If being nice means allowing yourself to be used, then being nice is not smart.

Now, I believe there are times to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. Jesus knew what He was saying. There are also times to call the Pharisees around us “whitewashed tombs” or to point out their hypocrisy. You can choose to let others use you and you can choose when it should stop. You don’t have to be nice.

Narcissists and others depend on a culture of nice to stop any opposition against their abuses. Maybe, in your situation, it’s time to take some of that nice out of your culture. Pray and trust the Lord. Don’t do this lightly. There are risks. Keep yourself safe. Prepare for consequences. Just know that being a doormat is not more spiritual. If you choose to let it continue, that’s fine. But you don’t have to.

So, for the sake of irony, maybe it’s time to stand up to the narcissist and say, “You are not nice!”

45 Comments

Filed under Legalism, Narcissism

45 responses to “Not Nice

  1. Carol

    I clearly remember a boss who I respected telling me that I was too nice. In my naïve days, I didn’t think one could be too nice. Boy was I wrong. Narcissists prey on nice people. And so do others. I have learned to exchange nice for kind. I am learning what ‘kind’ can look like.

    My 2 yr old granddaughter can recite the quote from the movie, “The Help”, ‘you’s kind, you’s smart, you’s important’. We also add together, ‘you’re special and you’re brilliant’.

    I try to keep the word, ‘nice’ out of my vocabulary with my grandchildren.

  2. Thank you SO much for putting into words, why I was so profoundly betrayed by my brethren who witnessed, firsthand, the abuses of my soon-to-be ex husband. The church leaders did this, even though I made certain sure they had absolute access to the psychiatrist that diagnosed my husband (Dependent, Histrionic Personality Disorder, with Narcissistic and Borderline traits- the MD said, ‘He is the purest Narc I have ever encountered in the wild” – that’s a direct quote!) In my mind, I refer to these church ‘leaders’, as Neville Chamberlain and the French army. Then, I think “No, no – that would be insulting Chamberlain and the French…’

    “People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; Never throw out anybody.” – attributed to Audrey Hepburn –

    I Corinthians 9:22f

    • Hi Bethie1113! Thanks for the comment. I try to strip comments of identifying information when I catch it, so your email and other personal info don’t appear here. Sometimes we are concerned about backlash from the narcs who lurk. I hope this edit is acceptable.

      That is a great, but troubling quote from the MD!

  3. Tammy

    Ah! True!

    I posted once on your blog for someone to be “nice”. I was called out on it and I agree that it was not good advice. I realized a couple of things… I really meant for them not to retaliate or sink to the N’s level. I also thought more deeply about how “Be Nice” was ingrained into my upbringing.

    My mother’s mother was an N, and she made a life of “being nice” in public, and domineering the family in private. So my mother drove the “be nice” part into us very strongly. She wanted a close family so badly that she downplayed my brother’s abuse of me and my sister. He was just plain MEAN. I grew up naïve and it wasn’t my mother’s fault, but I married an N.

    So I have hopefully instilled in my children a desire for a peaceful life, but NOT putting up with bad behavior in the interests of being “nice” or keeping up appearances in the church.

    I like to ask myself, if my daughter’s husband or son’s wife was behaving in that manner (typical N behavior), what would I want them to do?

    The answer isn’t be “NICE” for sure.

    Amen Pastor Dave. Keep it coming!

  4. Jeff Crippen

    I have often told our people here at Christ Reformation Church that they never want to have Mr. Nice Guy as their pastor or elders. Because when it comes right down to time to do battle with evil, Mr. Nice Guy can never ever be counted on to have your back.

  5. anonymous

    Oh goodness this resonates with me as all your posts. Learning that God’s kindness to others often does not look very “nice.” Calling others to more, trying to work things out biblically and then having to report a couple of N’s in the church for abuse and stalking. It has been crazy. The sad thing is watching others who have fallen into the “beautiful” gifted part of their personalities. They truly are gifted (the 2 I refer to) and gather groupies very quickly. Makes me sick to my stomach to watch other friends worship them. Friends that don’t know the truth or who overlook it because of the facade.

  6. anonymous

    Any chance to make my comments anonymous ?

  7. Annette

    Great post!

    Yes, this “culture of nice” was most certainly invented by a narcissist, i.e., a perpetrator. It’s the perpetrators that benefit most from this doctrine because it keeps people from holding them accountable. It involves deception, and nobody thrives more on deception than a narcissist. But this doctrine also benefits people who are simply indifferent. It allows them to ignore the sufferings of others while taking pride in being model Christians. Thus it is an ideal doctrine for today’s society, including the church. You can “do as thou wilt” and put on a “nice” facade. Count on the narcissist to support it!

    “And, all the while, they think of us as stupid.” They sure do! They call us “sheeple”.

  8. Kitkat

    This has been a balm to my soul! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I believe 100% in what you have written here today. A big part of the reason I confronted my N was to let her know her behavior towards me was unacceptable. Unfortunately for me, it went no farther. No one else in church leadership picked up the ball to say to the N, “Hey, wait a minute, what you are doing is not right, nor is it Christian!”. And while I think the world of our pastor, he is a very gentle and kind man, all he said for the most part is that, “I am praying for you both.” I very much believe that these people need to be challenged and confronted, if for no other reason than to send a strong message that their behavior is not tolerated at this church. Confrontation I know does little to change the N, but it will make them change gears on how they operate. They may do things more covertly but the larger dramas and explosive behaviors will be shut down. And in some instances, make them look for greener pastures to stalk. Again Pastor Dave, you are spot on!

  9. Joy

    Kitkat the sad part about confrontation with a N is it leads to a smear campaign- at least in my case it did.

  10. Cynthia

    Ditto, Joy. Me too.

    • Joy

      Cynthia, when does smear and stalking stop? I don’t engage or even acknowledge either of these N’s. Everytime I see them talking to a friend I unfortunately think they are smearing…patterns are hard to break and they are so covert and vindictive.

      • Cynthia

        “No contact” is really the only effective way to counter the smear campaign. You can’t do anything to stop them from lying, but as time goes on, you won’t even care what they say about you. Covert and vindictive, yes, and eventually they find another playground. No reaction from you sends a powerful message to a narc and it’s really the only healthy way you can deal with them. Narcs are, simply, “poison.” Also, don’t even care about what they say about you to others. Your real friends will not buy the lies.

      • Joy

        Amen. Light shines in darkness and eventually it will come to light. It is freeing to be no contact.

  11. Recovering

    “Nice” very often doesn’t work with live a life unto God. Walking with Him may involve confronting people and may involve walking away from people. None of that equates with being nice. However, it is healthy and holy.

  12. Kitkat

    My N did a smear campaign too. And as a result other people have jumped on her bandwagon. But not as many as she would have liked. But the ones that did, are doing their own smear campaigns against me, making false accusations. One of them is the assoc. pastor. Saw her the other night at a meeting and you could see the glint in her eye as she was fishing for information from me so that she could run back to tell the N. The senior pastor knows I am leaving the church and he is upset that I am leaving. But the assoc. pastor, I believe, will be positively giddy when she finds out. Maybe, the senior pastor will see that he must do something then, but I doubt it. As this N continues to spread her poison, I fear there will be another confrontation down the road for this N as she latches onto these new supplies. But I, thankfully, won’t be there to see it. Her new BFF has become distant and cold to some of my friends at the church now. She used to be a very sweet person but when she listened to the N’s sad tales of how I so wronged her, anyone who is still my friend, she has become cold to them. I tried to warn her but she was cold and indifferent towards me, so I knew the N had already gotten to her. If this N had been confronted by the pastor when all this started perhaps things would be different and I wouldn’t have to leave, who knows. But I know I can’t stay now, there has been too much damage done, and I will not be a doormat for anyone. I will still keep in contact with a few of my friends there, but for the most part that is all I will do.

    • Joy

      Kitkat I am so sorry. It is so hurtful to have everything flipped and we are suddenly the ones marked as the “abuser.” This happened to us in a small intimate group. We left the church for months to try to heal. It has been a year and we are still working on healing. These two knew about past abuse from my childhood and used it to their advantage. God is healing some deep places and He is using it for good. I was diagnosed with C-PTSD and still in therapy. We are back at the church and obviously there are constant triggers. I hate the enemy – I know this is spiritual warfare- our battle not against flesh and blood. I have lots of talks with the Lord because some of my anger is with Him too.

  13. Kitkat

    Joy, it is funny that you mention stalking. My N and her husband decided to take out the church directory one day and drive around to see where the more affluent at church lived. One person in particular lives more than an hour away and only can come to church occasionally, these people drove to her house to see what kind of house she had while she was in Florida. This N is obsessed with how other people live and what they have. We have a lot of attorneys, nurses and other professional people in our congregation so she is constantly comparing herself with them. My sister is a counselor and she told me I should tell the pastor this and I did, so he is aware of this behavior. But again, I doubt anything will be done about it. It is her word against mine and I don’t think anything can be done unless they break the law.

    • Joy

      Ugh. My stalkers did things like come to a small exercise class (that she never did before) after she saw me go into that room. She set up right beside me- so close I could touch her. Bizarre. I just ignored her. The other woman and her husband would stand in the parking lot looking for us or wait outside the sanctuary until we came in… Then come sit directly behind us. Breathing down our necks. Emotional bullies…one of these women is a counselor the other a gifted musician. Worshipped by many.

  14. HDG

    I went to his pastor for help(could this 2 yr.relationship be saved?what should I do?), NO REPLY from him. I also went to my pastor for help NO REPLY from her.We’d attended both churches-he quit mine pretty quickly because he would not be prayed for by a woman pastor-I continued at his every week.I documented both physical and emotional abuse with photos and messages-neither pastor would even here me out. I still attend my church but feel insignificant.The relationship with N became unbearable- much to his surprise I ended it. Mr. N still attends his church all humble,sweet,prayerful(it’s quite a show!)telling of how yet another woman(me)hurt him.”She let satan in her head destroy the relationship God wanted for us”.He’d used the same words to me.No mention(I’ll bet) of his yelling,bruises,control,isolating,fists in the face,and put-downs. No support from church “family”seems pretty common.

    • Oh how clever they are at using the ‘God’ card. Either quoting the scriptures to us OR using God in the sentences to convince others how Godly they are. They fooled us, so of course they can fool the Christian Leaders in the Churches. My dear late aunt used to call them “Street angels and Home Devils”. How wise she wise. Sadly too many Christians and Ministers don’t have the courage to find out the truth and speak out TO the people whom they are informed are perpetrators, historically and currently. The ministers and elders perpetuate the violence by maintaining the silence. In my case….. the Pastors seem to think he is worth having in their congregation…. not their problem. The Senior Pastor even claimed (to my face) that he couldn’t speak to N because it didn’t happen while I was attending HIS Church (it did). When I made another appointment with him and the two assistant pastors (one a woman), he DID NOT get back to me…. no appointment was allowed. I wanted to explain how it HAD indeed happened on his watch AND that the Church is Universal and he is responsible for the Gospel everywhere (not just in HIS CHURCH)…. I thought it was God’s Church not individual Pastors’ church. He wasn’t interested in hearing about the intimidation, the illegal behaviour, locking me out of the house, lying/cheating on others…. Not his problem to speak out to the N. Whew! Meanwhile the Godly women leave the congregations which they have called home for years. In my case (being the 3rd wife), the pastors should be asking why would 3 women leave and divorce a person for violence if there is no truth in the story. I think they believed it but went with the God’s Grace for all blurb, however WITHOUT the accountability verses of the New Testament. I don’t know of anyone who has taken separation and divorce lightly. I did manage to go no contact (second marriage) but I too had to leave my church for my sanity and safety. How the hateful glare (intimidation) and the silence of the N can perpetuate fear, reduce confidence and make you feel so bad…. at the very place which should give you joy i.e. worship and prayer. Funnily enough, once he found out I had left for good (through his spies), he stopped going regularly. Sometimes as infrequently as 6 – 8 weeks. Oh and he always sits with a Pastor and his wife (his supply, credibility source), being mostly friends with the female (surprise surprise). All I can say is…. sometimes recovery comes not only from NO CONTACT but also from NO CONTACT with those whose silence helps perpetuate the abusive behaviour of the Narc/Sociopath by leaving that situation as well. It is a high cost. I not only left him, but I also left that particular Church and soon after walked out on my job…. never to return to any of them. That ‘friend’ Pastor’s wife was also a colleague of mine and a great source of information to my N. No wonder he knew if I was going to be at Church etc. Much of the information she was receiving were lies. Leaving those situations was very painful. I was at retirement age so was able to retire financially, not knowing if he would come after me for money post divorce. I moved away nearly 600km. I miss family and friends but I have had a chance to recover, find my feet again in a new world. Very difficult after living in that city for 27 years (and the area all my life, except for a few years) and working in Health for 25 years. My message is that we might have to make some very hard decisions but we CAN and we MUST. God has blessed me on this painful journey. I will do anything I can to break the silence and help others get safe and heal. It’s a long road. Far better than the road of violence.

      • HDG

        Thank you for sharing what is unfortunately an all too familiar story for many of us.There are wise lots of wise words here”Street angel home devil” and “God’s church not the individual pastor’s church”among them.Hard to know he is still lunching with pastor regularly; admired,respected and accepted-perpetuating his narcissism while I am branded a tattle-tale and a bitter,disobedient,rebellious woman. It hurts, then I remind myself all that really matters is this : JESUS KNOWS ME,LOVES ME AND ACCEPTS ME. 🙂

  15. Kitkat

    Joy, I understand your anger and your anger at the Lord. But know this, it is hard to see right now, but He does love you. We don’t always understand when bad things happen to us, but He will bring you through it. Remember He didn’t spare His own Son, for our sakes. In the end, He has your best interest at heart and I know it may not seem that way right now. Another thing we need to remember and that is, we are dealing with flawed human beings. Just because they go to church we expect them to be different than the rest of the world, but I sometimes think of a church like a hospital, it is where the sick come to get healed. They wear all the trimmings of a godly person, but in reality, many are very flawed and hide much behind the sanctimonious smiles. Despite how painful this has been for me, I am glad that it happened. It has done several things for me. I have learned a great deal about human behavior and narcissism in trying to deal with this. I have had my eyes opened to what some of the scriptures really mean. Narcissism and all its nastiness is written about throughout the scriptures. And I believe that this has helped me to grow and mature a little more. I am still reeling from all this, but I do believe that down the road, the Lord has prepared me to deal with others who may try to manipulate me in the future. I pray that you have healing and growth from this, and that you will find the right place to worship, where you will be loved and cared for. HDG I pray the same for you. Look for another place to worship, somewhere you are loved. You are both valuable to the Lord, He does love you. But I think He wants us to be active participants in our spiritual lives, where we deal in the reality of who God is, and what the world does to people. And by doing that He arms us with the tools we need to help ourselves and others.

    • Joy

      Amen! Sanctification is often painful. It was a painful rescue for me. My eyes opened and much healing of my past that I didn’t realize was still so painful. It has been amazing in so many ways- painful joy. Crucified with Him in suffering has changed me deeply. I am not the same person. You are absolutely right about the church as a hospital.

  16. Fatmah

    Thank you…truth is powerful!

  17. Dave

    This is an awesome post! It has a very Andy Rooney type flavor. If you reread it like Andy Rooney was saying it, you’ll get what I mean. Such wisdom!

  18. Wow, everyone. We know the emperor has no clothes. Our eyes have been opened but still it can be so isolating even when we know the truth. What boggles my mind is how the smear campaign is accepted as truth — and considered acceptable behavior at all. The guise of niceness is so thorough that the lies go unquestioned and not even called out simply for not being nice. How does that even happen? And if, in response, we feel and express negative emotions such as anger (and, in my case, uncontrollable tears!), then yes we are called the abusers (or crazy, or unreliable, or unpredictable …), only reinforcing the N’s spectacular lies and behavior. It’s kind of amazing. And maddening!

    But I also agree that it makes us stronger, and, one hopes, fortifying a resolve to not give in to the temptation of perpetuating the cycle of abuse through retaliation. We won’t forget the trauma, which in turn will feed our compassion toward others. Learning to navigate deception and betrayal in this world can make us wiser when others are blindsided and abused in similar fashion, and make us braver when the inevitable bystanders side with the perpetrator. So it can’t be all bad to go through this. We’re being cut down to be built back up.

    • Kitkat

      Very much like the dialog here, heal everyone, we are on our way to healthier relationships! 🙂

      • Joy

        Amen to healthier relationships! My counselor said evil will try over and over to attack us in the same ways. I have had so many disordered people come into my life since the smear. Quickly, I realize there’s a problem and have blocked them from emailing or texting me. Where, in the past, I would doubt my own feelings and press on thinking the person was just quirky. It is comical the things that have happened now as I look back on the bizarre things, but I have a new confidence and freedom and don’t become involved with these relationships that are so harmful. When we’ve been through it before, The Lord graciously has given us insight and wisdom we didn’t have before– allowing us to make new choices. Praise God!

  19. Still Reforming

    This was exactly the theme of a recent article in Tabletalk which really resonated with me. It was written by Tim Challies in the August 2014 issue, and the article is titled “Be Careful of Nice People.” You might appreciate a read of this article, if you haven’t already seen it.

    In it, Challies observes, “Why isn’t niceness a fruit of the Spirit? Because niceness is a hollow trait that a human can generate even without the inner working of the Holy Spirit. Niceness may require some force of will in the face of disagreement or controversy. It may require restraint. But it does not require an inward transformation.”

    Also: “Niceness doesn’t require that work of the Spirit. In fact, niceness is often a clever ruse Satan employs to fool us into following ungodly leaders. Be careful around nice people. Evil and ungodly men often rely upon niceness to cover their sin. Where Christians can be fast and blunt in defending the truth, unbelievers – and especially unbelievers claiming to be Christians – can look good in contrast. They can seem so nice as they nicely undermine the very foundations of the Christian faith. Their smiles, their soft words, their sympathetic questions, their niceness – these are all tools designed to mask their opposition to God.”

  20. Bro. Dave, I don’t remember if you’ve mentioned Anna Salter’s work in sexual predators, but one of the biggest things I learned there is “Niceness is a choice”! It was the firet time I had ever encountered anything like that.

    Thanks!

    ~~Another avid reader

  21. Penny

    I have watched, waited & read all the responses here & so many of the stories are so similar, altho the details differ. Each story causes me pain at the lack of empathy & compassion in the church. Having recently been blamed as the victim of a narc (while the narc/abuser is given a pass) I have spent time writing & pondering why churches respond this way. Why are churches loathe to discipline the wolf, yet eagerly blame the sheep? How are the sheep to blame for wanting justice for their wounds? Why can the wolf get away with murder & nothing, NOTHING happens?? There are many so/called reasons stated, but none of them satisfied my soul. I began to write in allegory about a wolf in the sheepfold who is given free rein to terrorize the sheep, while the sheep are reprimanded for bleating. Then I researched sheep, and learned that sheep are a vulnerable lot, thus are easy targets for predators. They have few defensive options, but the flock will sometimes pound their hooves together in a desperate attempt to ward off an attack. They bleat a lot, and their bleating language is unique to their flock & their shepherd. They bleat while being pursued. But here’s what is new to me: they are silent when in pain. Do you get that? Sheep are silent when in pain. They suffer in silence…just like Jesus when He went to the cross. But as Dave said here, Jesus wasn’t nice, He was very vocal in his opposition to the religious leaders of the day. And yet, how many times have all of us here been told to “identify with the sufferings of Jesus”? How many of us have been told to suffer silently , “like Jesus did”. And yet, during His life & ministry Jesus was anything BUT silent. Suddenly it hit me: silencing the targets of the Ns attacks “in the name of Jesus” is yet another example of spiritual abuse b/c it ignores the reason WHY Jesus was silent: as the sacrificial Lamb of God, He was in pain. He had already said all that He came to say. He wasn’t going to throw His own pearls before swine & be torn to pieces, & He warned his followers not to do that either. There is only one reason for a wolf to be inside the sheepfold, & that is to tear the sheep to pieces, to destroy them, to scatter the flock. But Jesus told us not to allow that! He was the silently suffering Lamb so we wouldn’t have to be. He already suffered for us. So when the church tells us to “identify with His suffering” they have it wrong. They have it backwards. We DO have a voice, we no longer have to be bullied into silence by pious, narcissistic religious leaders insisting that suffering silently is how we identify with Him. Jesus spoke volumes in His silence and with His resurrection He gave us a new voice…HIS voice, HIS Word. He wants us to use that voice to speak truth & not be bullied by the wolves in the sheepfold. Kick the wolves out, expose them. We are never told to be nice to wolves. Thanks, Dave.

  22. Kimberly

    The simpleton who smiles and acts nice despite the cruelty of another hit me like bricks!!!

    Ugh! My grandmother in front of my husband and grandfather commented about me being stupid and crazy as if I were deaf and blind as she made the sign crazy, circling her ear and pointing at me. I kept a smile on my face and pretended I missed the whole thing. I wasn’t stupid, just so shocked a person who I loved and thought loved me would do something so blatant and cruel. As if I’m mentally retarded talking about me in my presence. It was awful. Neither my husband or grandfather said anything in my defense. My husband seemed to enjoy it, smiling, laughing, cover his mouth and nodding his head in agreement. The thing is I hadn’t even been talking the whole time. Just listening to all of them discuss different things. I hadn’t even added a thing to their trivial conversation. It was just a flat out attack for no apparent reason.
    There were plenty more days of things like this that happened. I really didn’t know how to respond to it and I kept going back for more. I did finally stay away and kept my children from her. She’s long gone and unable to hurt anyone any more. I wish I could have stuck up for myself and called it what it was. She would have laughed at me.

  23. Re: “We have several old photos of ancestors, and one common thread, no matter what branch of the family, is that they are not smiling.”

    Photographs from the early 20th century, and prior, were made with equipment and supplies that required much longer exposure times to form a clear image. Think minutes, not seconds. Consequently, the subjects had to maintain stillness and not change expressions at all. This did not lend itself to smiling for the camera. Indeed, smiling subjects were “frowned upon”. This has little to do with whether they were happy or nice or peaceful or mean.

    My great uncle was a professional portrait photographer in the early 20th century and many of his photographs still survive.

  24. Ellery

    Engraved into my psyche, from birth, was the mandate that I always, no matter what, be “nice.” “Nice” meant never hurting another’s feelings. “Nice” meant subordinating my own wants and needs. “Nice” meant not confronting or speaking up for myself. Consequently, I have been disrespected, used, abused, betrayed, ripped off, rejected, discarded, excluded, invalidated, and humiliated. From experience, I now know that “nice” is an open invitation to those who aren’t. The former narcissists in my life have taught me in the most hurtful way possible that my first responsibility must be to myself. “Nice” now means to me discernment, boundaries, directness, walking away, refusing, and ignoring. Trust is not a given. It must be earned. What one sees is not after all what one gets.

  25. UnForsaken

    Wow! This “nice” thing I’ve thought about so many times, and this is a wonderful overview of the subject. I find it hard to describe without sounding critical, as “nice” has so many illusive definitions, but it’s a deep concern for me living in a place that has really swallowed this!

    Agatha Christie once used “kind” this way, defining people who seem nice and kind, but because of fear, cowardice, or lack of conscience, are more dangerous than anyone else.

    I loved everyones’ comments and quotes! You helped me get through the holiday. ❤

    • Oh wow. That sounds really profound. I would love to read more. It seems to cement these ideas in my mind if I read stories about them. Do you happen to remember any titles of hers where she uses the word “kind” like that? I have been wanting to get in to reading her stuff lately anyways.

      • UnForsaken

        Sarah, what a long weekend! But, finally I’m back.

        Agatha Christie…..I recommend All of her books, esp. because I can’t remember the exact book with the quote! 🙂 However, pretty much all of them do have “nice” people in the theme somewhere. A few titles are: “There Is A Tide”, “And Then There Where None”, and “Towards Zero” (my favorite). Maybe you’ll find the quote in one of them?!

        Wen my grandfather was alive, he shared a special list of books he thought would help build moral charactor , which included Christie. Wish I had that list now! Her books are written with the same expectation of readers as other books before our time : we are expected to gain moral insight through our own perceptions . She simply lays out the charactors for us to decide, with few explanations. It’s a lot like looking at life as we live it. Totally different from todays light reading. I bet if you read older books anyway, that seems normal to you. It did to me, until one of my cousins complained she had to read a “dirty” book for Lit. in school, and it turned out to be “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. That era’s writting hadn’t helped her see the real point of the book! But as a general rule, beside some extinct phrasing/slang, Christie’s books still relate very well to our culture today.

        Another author like her is Ngaio Marsh of New Zealand. She’s a little more about plot. I love Christie for her great quotes, grasp of a wide range of personalities, and charactor portrayal. The film vertions usually “modernize” morals and are Nothing like her books, although some can be fun. Both authors are great library sale finds or interlibrary loans! You might like to get Agatha’s autobiography. Her life and writting spanned a large part of the last century, and her first husband appeared to be …aha… another N.

        More on the “Nice” topic : I began skimming Beverly Engel’s “The Nice Girl Syndrome” and wonder if anyone else has been encouraged by it? Some ideas might be too ‘dangerous’ to put completely into practice right now, but I’e found the exercises – to get in touch with how we really feel – quite helpful!

  26. I read a historical article by a professional photographer once about why people did not smile in old photos/portrait. If I recall correctly, the reason wasn’t that they were trying to project unfriendliness, it’s that smiling was seen as pretense or that you were hiding something (at least in context of a photograph). Not smiling was seen as a “neutral” expression that showed your real face. Plus early cameras took a long time to take pictures, and you had sit for hours to pose for a portrait while the painter worked, so it was impractical to hold a smile that long anyway. The author also went through some examples from other countries where smiling is considered a threat because you’re “baring your teeth” at the other person.

    I also read an article once where the author described an exercise that her college professor had her do, in which she was told to smile only when she was happy or laughing and not just as a reflex. (This was to demonstrate how Americans are unconsciously trained to a smile a lot.) Her boyfriend was so used to her smiling frequently that he thought she was in a bad mood and asked what was wrong.

  27. Ann

    Hester, thats very interesting. I wanted to share that the Native American people believed that if their picture was taken, their Spirt was taken with it.

  28. Ann

    One more thing, the original reason I came to this site was because I had been dealing with a narcissist. She was very ill for many years. This was due to her drinking a half a gallon of vodka a day.
    Well, she had her last say AGAIN. Her family, (whom I’ve always been close to) didn’t call me when they pulled the plugs.
    Her husband had told me that her family didn’t want anything to do with me because I had hurt her feelings a few weeks ago. That is when I told her she was a narciissist. Its been 7 years, I told her I am sick and tired of feeling sorry for her when she is causing this HERSELF.
    She told her family. She told them that I totally upset her. I talked to her Dad, he told me that I had to be very careful of what I say to her. OMG
    This is their excuse for not calling me. When she had heart surgery because of her drinking I went out of the state and spent 13 hours at the hospital waiting to see if she had lived. This was all caused by drinking too.
    A few months ago, I just lost my temper. Now she is gone. Her family treated me like crap. There was no funeral. I’m just really upset about this. And, even though she is dead, I blame her.
    Thanks for listening
    God Speed and Many Blessings

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