“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” —Lao Tzu
I’m not the type of person to mince words. Life’s too short for prevarication. So here goes…nice bugs me. In the presence of “nice”, I feel guarded – irritated. I feel the need to cleanse; an energetic shower to remove the phoney baloney stickiness of what I know is not real.
Nice is nasty.
Strong words…perhaps, but I’m a status quo crusher. I have a penchant for strong language that aligns with my passion for truth. I’m also a critical thinker who must understand why things are the way they are. Lately I’ve been pondering the question, “why is it that nice bugs me so much?”
My immediate answer: because nice isn’t kind.
This led me to explore the difference between nice and kind. The chasm is vast.
Before we delve into my philosophical musings, let’s kick things off with the dictionary definitions of these radically different words.
Nice: Pleasing and agreeable in nature; exhibiting courtesy and politeness; of good character and reputation; respectable; socially or conventionally correct; refined or virtuous. (Yawn!)
Kind: Having or showing a tender, considerate, and helping nature. Friendly, generous, sympathetic, and warm-hearted in nature. Characterized by mercy and compassion. (Yes!)
The bottom line: Kindness is rooted in the abundance of love. It emerges from the compassionate essence of who we are. Niceness is rooted in lack and fear. It projects itself through the lingering pain of our unhealed wounds and accompanying low sense of self-worth.
No wonder nice feels “icky”.
Nice conforms to perceived societal expectations in order to not rock the boat. A nice person lacks self-worth and therefore doesn’t express authentically. The people pleasing tendencies of “nice” are rooted in selfishness—acting inauthentically for personal gain through approval and recognition. Nice perpetuates the status quo. When we’re “nice”, we don’t feel safe within ourselves. When on the receiving end of nice, I feel unsafe; empty.
Kindness doesn’t care what society thinks. A kind person believes in their Soul and expresses authentically. The honest loving nature of kindness is rooted in selflessness—no approval or recognition required. Kindness expands consciousness. When we’re kind, we feel safe within ourselves. When on the receiving end of kind, I feel safe; held.
Interesting how the projection of our inner world is mirrored by others…
Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics that define nice and kind:
- Nice is externally motivated (fear of judgment). Kind is internally motivated (love for others).
- Nice tells you what it thinks you want to hear. Kind tells you what you need to hear.
- Nice is tense. Kind is relaxed.
- Nice is self-conscious. Kind is other-conscious.
- Nice talks. Kind acts.
- Nice is faux. Kind is real.
- Nice pacifies. Kind is present.
- Nice is shallow. Kind is deep.
- Nice is awkward. Kind is graceful.
- Nice lacks boundaries; it fears the word, “no”. Kind has solid boundaries; there is no fear of “no”.
- Nice is weak. Kind is strong.
- Nice takes. Kind gives.
- Nice is needy. Kind is self-reliant.
- Nice is empty. Kind is full.
- Nice constricts. Kind expands.
- Nice is submissive. Kind is assertive.
- Nice is narcissistic. Kind is empathic.
- Nice suppresses feelings. Kind feels it all.
- Nice is uncertain. Kind is certain.
- Nice judges. Kind accepts.
- Nice rejects self care. Kind embraces self care.
- Nice avoids confrontation and retreats into silence. Kind confronts and protects the innocent.
- Nice expects recognition or reward. Kind expects nothing.
- Nice depletes. Kind empowers.
- Nice appeases. Kind provokes.
- Nice is cowardly. Kind is courage.
- Nice lacks confidence. Kind is confident.
- Nice is conditional. Kind is generous.
- Nice smothers. Kind respects.
- Nice worries. Kind believes.
- Nice distances. Kind connects.
- Nice follows. Kind leads.
- Nice backs down. Kind stands their ground.
- Nice seeks approval. Kind is indifferent to approval.
- Nice says yes when they mean no and no when they mean yes. Kind speaks truth.
- Nice fears. Kind loves.
Kindness is rooted in compassion. Compassion is not for the faint of heart. Ken Wilber states that, “Real compassion kicks butt and takes names. If you are not ready for this fire, then find a New Age, sweetness- and-light, perpetually smiling teacher…but stay away from those who practice real compassion because they will fry your ass, my friend.” Compassion is the fuel for kindness.
Kindness begins with the self. It is internally motivated. How we behave and act in the outer world reflects who we are on the inside. When we’re kind to ourselves, we’re kind to others. Kindness is projected through love.
Because niceness is rooted in low self-worth, it is externally motivated. Niceness endlessly searches for the next hit of approval to fill the loveless pit of emptiness within. Flattery, agreeing, coddling, conformity, appeasing are the external manifestations of an insecure inner world. They may seem pleasant on the surface, but underneath it all, unease is palpable. Thoughts and behaviors are out of alignment. This lack of congruency breeds a lack faith. Nice people are often difficult to trust.
As a young girl, my father once said to me, “Debbie, you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all the people all the time. Always stay in your truth, because that’s all that matters.” I never forgot his words. Although I didn’t know what he meant at the time, I now know that he was grooming me for kindness.
In my own life, when I act from kindness, I feel expansive, solid, compassionate, worthy, connected, loving, full, and willing to authentically speak my truth.
I’m aware of the areas in my life where self worth is still lacking when I slip into “nice”. I don’t like how it feels. I feel small, constricted, distant, empty, and guarded. I feel the need to protect the wounded parts of myself that don’t feel worthy. I withdraw to avoid conflict. By not speaking my truth, I short-circuit my connection to my heart. I feel “icky”. Go figure.
Transforming nice into kind
- Trust the voice of your heart. It’s the only voice of truth.
- Stop worrying what **you think** others may be thinking. Most of the time it’s wrong anyhow. Illusory stories hurt us all.
- Be authentic. When you mean no, say it. When you mean yes, say it. It’s easier than you think.
- Be honest. Tell yourself the truth. The rest will take care of itself. Truth begins with you.
- Stop talking, start acting.
- Believe in yourself. Believe in your worth. The world needs you to show up and step fully into who you are.
- Above all else, be the love that you are. Love needs no approval.
I believe that we all waver between nice and kind as we move our way through life. Awareness of inner misalignment is the first step towards wholeness. When we consciously strive to plug in to our authentic self, our relationship with kindness stabilizes – for ourselves and for all.
The most powerful energy on the planet is an open loving heart. There are no limits to what we can accomplish when love, compassion, and kindness flourish.
“Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.” —Barbara de Angelis.