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Stop Being Nice, Start Being Kind

There is a big difference between being nice and being kind. In a nutshell, being nice makes you feel good, but being kind is an act of doing good.

Those words can, occasionally, look the same from the outside, but only in the most trivial of actions. A little look under the hood of “nice” and it is often outright harmful or cruel.

Being Nice is Easy, not Virtuous

When we tell the waiter the food is “great” even though we hate it, we feel nice. When we tell our friend we love their haircut even though it looks terrible, we think we are being nice. When we say, “oh, wherever” when someone asks us where we want to eat, we think we are being nice. In reality, these things are often just passive-aggressive, conflict-avoiding, and frankly unhealthy behaviors.

Kindness Does Not Expect Payback

Being kind to someone means that the only thing on your mind is another person’s well-being when you act. Kindness means that you do something for the benefit of another, without needing a return or payback. Niceness is how we try to climb the social ladder, but kindness is how we lift up others.

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Being Kind Doesn’t Always Feel Nice

And yes, saying something like “Dang Julie, your breath is terrible!” is probably outright mean. However, saying, “Hey Julie, I want to warn you that your breath is a bit stale today” is genuinely a kind service. It feels scary, you worry you might offend them, but it is most helpful. Doing this also means she will continue to rely on you for honest feedback.

Kindness is Better than “Tough Love”

Kindness doesn’t wear out, in part because it doesn’t require the constant effort of pretending to be nice. Kindness is OK with establishing proper boundaries, and clearly communicating those boundaries. Kindness is OK getting embarrassed by someone else’s behavior because kindness isn’t worried about image. Being nice is often a way we try to control others and manage the world around us, kindness gives up control and only looks for ways to help.

Being Nice is a Burden, Kindness is a Blessing

Kindness is liberating. Instead of worrying about what people think of you, you look for ways you can be genuinely helpful, and no more. It may feel bad at the moment, but after a while, you learn that people come to trust you and everyone starts letting their guard down. You don’t have to live every day putting on a show; you can just live and do your best. In the end, that’s all most of us want to do anyway.

Written by

A practical mystic, a paltry poet, and a prolific ponderer. I write about the intersections of mental health, social justice, and Scripture.

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