You Don’t Have To Be Nice

It’s Narcissist Friday!

You don’t have to be nice. To be nice means to be agreeable. The nice person doesn’t cause grief for others. The nice person doesn’t make others feel bad. The nice person doesn’t say mean things. The nice person lets others get by with things. The nice person lets herself be used. The nice person watches others get promoted. The nice person doesn’t speak up.

No, you don’t have to be nice. In earlier days, being nice meant being simple, even stupid. The nice person just nodded in polite agreement, no matter what was being said. The nice person didn’t have an opinion of value and wouldn’t take a stand. The nice person just wanted to get along.

You don’t have to be nice.

You should be kind, that’s different. You should be honest and generous and respectful. These are all good things. The Bible never calls us to be nice, but it does call us to be all of these things and more.

My email and Facebook pages are full of stories of abusers and narcissists who hurt people then hide behind niceness. They act innocent and agreeable and friendly. Then, when their victims cry out in pain and grief, the victims are accused of not being nice. Nice people don’t say anything when others hurt them, I guess.

You don’t have to be nice.

Taking a stand on an issue will be seen as not nice. Calling out abuse or injustice will be seen as not nice. Speaking up with a contrary opinion you believe is right will be seen as not nice. Believe me. I have experienced all of these. You probably have as well.

So, if the Latin word “necius” meant “ignorant,” and that’s where our word “nice” comes from, then maybe we could substitute “stupid” for “nice.” Think about that. When we say someone is nice, we mean that person is stupid (or at least simple). When we say someone is not nice, we mean they are not stupid.

Okay, I know, that’s taking things too far. Most people who are nice are not stupid. Some of those who are truly not nice are also not stupid. We usually don’t mean the same thing as the Latin word. But…

But would it help you to stand up a little straighter if you heard the accusation that you are not nice as “not stupid”? Would you feel better about yourself if you realized that not being nice is just a way for others to say that you are not falling into line, not being agreeable, not conforming to their desires? What if “not nice” meant that the person could see through the masks and the camouflage to the truth? Because it really does mean that much of the time.

When you disagree and say so, you cause the other person to feel bad about herself. When you speak up against abuse, you cause the abuser to look bad. When you challenge leadership decisions, stand with oppressed people, or expose sin, you are not being nice. Nor are you being stupid.

The church and American culture have developed something that could be called “mandatory niceness.” We keep people in line with the demand that they be nice. Don’t make waves. Don’t draw attention to yourself or unwanted attention to others. Don’t make the organization look bad. Be nice.

Maxwell Smart, the comedy secret agent of Get Smart, saw two forces at work in the world: evil and niceness. To be not nice was to be evil. That was true for most of us as we grew up. A great deal of integrity and dignity was sacrificed for the sake of niceness.

But that has created a situation where victims of manipulation and abuse fear coming forward because they will be accused of causing trouble (not being nice). There are people in social media pointing out sexual abuse in the church and how the church systems work to cover up the abuse. And some in the church wish these advocates would use their gifts for “niceness rather than evil.” “Nice” pastors and teachers are being held accountable by these “not nice” accusers. Nice politicians and “nice” business leaders are being called out for their hypocrisy and abuse by “not nice” whistle-blowers.

Listen: if you have to make a choice between telling the truth and being nice, choose truth. If you are expected to water down your opinions, compromise your stand, betray victims, or ignore injustice—then it is time to be not nice. If others want you to betray yourself, don’t be nice.

The desire to be seen as nice has allowed so much evil in our world and hurt so many people. It isn’t worth it. It’s just stupid.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “You Don’t Have To Be Nice

  1. Judy Stuebe

    Thank you.

  2. An absolute truth! I live here in the beautiful state of Minnesota and they have a saying here… “They’re being Minnesota nice” Hmmm… now you get the picture:(

  3. Beautiful Swan

    Kindness is not always good. Narcissists will use kindness and generosity for show and to stump their victims. But I see what you mean about the “niceties” in regard to workplace, social, and family interactions around those that do not like and/or cause us harm.

  4. Oh my goodness did I ever need to hear that today! Thank you for this truth.

  5. Oh my goodness, what a read! Thank you so much for writing this! I love your work!

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