Friday, December 9, 2016

Not Nice

This quote from writer Naomi Shulman made me think about niceness, kindness, bravery, and the differences and intersections between those words and concepts. 

I've come to realize and accept that I am not a nice person, nor do I want to be a nice person. Nice is defined as "pleasant, agreeable, and satisfactory." I can be nice at times, I suppose, but it's certainly not my default setting to be pleasant, agreeable, or satisfactory. In fact, it's often my instinct to be decidedly unpleasant, disagreeable, and unsatisfactory (depending on who I'm interacting with). "Nice" sounds perilously close to boring, or like the result of a frontal lobe lobotomy or something.

I do, however, like to think I am kind. Kind is distinctly different from nice. Kind is "having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature." I like to think I manifest those qualities. I don't think I have a perfect track record, but I try to be kind every day. More to the point, I strive to be brave, which is defined as "ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage."

I'm lucky and grateful that my life has thus far been relatively devoid of trauma and challenges I would consider truly difficult. I had two loving (if flawed) human beings for parents. I had what I needed then, and I have what I need now. My kids are great people; they scare me with their vulnerability and my own, but they're great people. I have never been a solider, but one hour of witnessing 9/11 gave me an entirely new perspective on the meaning of "bravery" and trauma soldiers endure. That's a level of bravery I will never know, though I wonder if my children will.

Anyway, now feels like the time to reaffirm that it's okay not to be nice. 

Sometimes that means having awkward, unpleasant, difficult interactions and conversations. It means being forced to defend your beliefs to people who are challenging them in ways both subtle and confrontational. 

It means being brave enough to accept the possible consequences of the gamble you make when you speak your mind. It means taking verbal criticism or abuse, or worse, and not letting that do what it's meant to do, which is to shut you up and shut you down.

But I am fine with that. I am fine with not being nice, as long as I can be both kind and brave whenever the time comes to be either.

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