I don’t like nice. Now before you think something not nice about me, give me just a minute, or about 600 words. I know, I know. Nebraska’s newest marketing strategy includes the word. And I like the slogan, it’s cute. However, I still don’t care about nice. Confused yet? Me too. Be patient with me, I think I have a point to make.
Nice is everywhere. Grinding my gears and making me twitch a little. With so much nastiness in this world we seem to have the answer, nice. Just be nice. That’s not nice. She’s not nice. He is nice. It’s seems so simple. We wonder “Why can’t people be just nice?” But I think “nice” is where we are getting lost. I’m afraid we have over simplified the issue. Focused on something that isn’t easy or really even all that valuable-that being niceness.
Some may think it’s niceness we are missing in the world today. Lack of niceness being what causes the insults to fling, the fights to start, the sadness and hurt to happen. I think it’s a huge lack of much more valuable character traits. We could all use a huge helping of respect, a serving of integrity, and a plateful of honesty. That’s just the beginning add in, friendliness, kindness, gratitude, and generosity. In fact, as a follower of Christ I am called to be more than nice. Much more. The word love comes to mind-that’s the truly all-encompassing word here. But those bigger words?
Those words and actions are hard, not always fun and certainly aren’t easy. We have decided it boils down to one word-Nice. But nice my friends, isn’t getting us anywhere. In fact from my view it’s getting us further from nice than ever before. I’m just as guilty as the next guy, though. When my daughter takes a swing at the dog, I flippantly say “Hey, that wasn’t nice.” When I meet someone new I instantly say “They seem nice.” When really generally, I know nothing of their character. They could be our definition of nice, whatever that is, or they could be…not…nice.
These days nice just feels boiled down. Like the pale, smooshy vegetables left at the bottom of my stock pot after cooking vegetable stock. The good stuff still exists but it’s out of the pot and so, so much richer now. How do we stop the boiling down of the traits that actually have some substance? In my quest to define niceness I started being more specific with my word choice. We donated clothes to a family who lost everything in a fire. That was generosity and kindness. My daughter stayed in the cart the whole time we were in the grocery store, like I asked. That was a good listener and respectful. Do you see what I’m saying here? I could have said “nice” to all of these. But a deeper understanding of character was happening when I used these descriptors.
Lets go back to my Grandpa’s childhood days. Born in 1928, when he was 8 he was trustworthy enough and strong enough to milk the cow. I bet it behooved him to be gentle and patient with said bovine. Much to my dismay I don’t currently have a milk cow, but we live in a world full of needs and opportunity. So I’m trying to sift through niceness to use and live words that matter. Words that hold some weight and meaning. Words that will make my girl someone who makes somebody feel like somebody. It’s been revealing looking at myself and my own character. Am I being kind, patient, joyful, honest or am I being general and generic nice? Because I’m convinced there is a difference.
So I don’t like nice. Sure I’ll probably still use the word. Maybe though, I’ll be more intentional with what comes out of my mouth. Maybe I won’t have to wonder if I’ve instilled intentional and high standards of character in my daughter. I hopefully won’t have to worry if she’s just nice. Or maybe, maybe I’m just a writer getting caught up in semantics.