"Oh yea, Todd is such a nice guy."
" I know, right?!"
We are all mostly taught to be nice when we are children. So we follow that benign advice. Why do we want to be nice? What is the general goal or outcome for behaving in a nice way? Are we just adhering to social mores, codes and normalities that have been ingrained in our culture for generations?
When we are being nice, we are putting on a mask. We may not want to be nice, but we may not necessarily want to be honest or rude. We may want to be nice at first. We may try to be nice just in order to avoid conflict or inconvenience ourselves by showing our suppressed and hidden emotions. In order to understand "being nice" we must try to uncover why we do it in the first place.
We put on a smile. Nod at strangers.
Hold the door open for people behind us. Wave the person in front of you into the other driving lane.
These small "nice" tasks are expressions of domestication and/or the evolutionarily guided reciprocal altruisms that are essential for survival and embedded in our genes.
When we try to be nice to avoid any type of inconvenience or conflict, we are domesticating ourselves to not confront the actions of others and reactions of ourselves. We may not want to be rude because we will feel guilt and shame for how we behaved in the future. No one is making the case to be rude, but when you can compassionately encounter your uncomfortable state of being without running, you can open up a whole new vulnerable and honest space within yourself.
Nice can run along the lines of sympathy and pity. These emotions are unconsciously engrained in us. Programmed into our brains based upon the contrived "rules" of society. Being nice starts to lose it's meaning when you can be honest and accept yourself unconditionally at every moment. It is not about trading out niceties for sternness and brutal honesty, it is accepting the emotions you are feeling and the " this is the way I should act or feel" egotistical directive.
There is a difference between being nice and being "kind". Kindness emerges from a different place. Kindness emerges from a compassionate and still center that expects nothing of an outcome.
There is a quote that has always stuck with me.
"If you're helping someone and expecting something in return, that is not kindness that is business."
Kindness's roots begin with gratitude. When we can accept, forgive and be kind to ourselves, even when we see ourselves as "slipping up", we can reflect that behavior within the interactions of other people.
So much of it just starts with you. When you can listen and be still, you will see how unkind people need kindess the most. The willingness to not act hastily with our unchecked reactions will lead us into accepting and understanding the suffering of others. The compassion you have has no room to judge the person who has hurt you, another person or the environment. Your critical mind will transmute into a soft blanketed presence that will simple accept "what is."
We hurt ourselves more when we hold onto that anger. When we hold onto that discomfort that we get from another person, we are allowing ourselves to fall victim to unconscious behaviors. But when you can be patient, present and not focused on an outcome, a new heartily directive will emerge from your being. The desire to be "nice" will slowly dissipate from your consciousness. You can be honest and open without the concern of acting out of town or hurting someone's feelings.
These small kind actions are at the heart of the change you want in the world. When you can radiate that kindness and be totally present without worrying about an outcome, you can have the potential to change the perspectives and behaviors of others. Nothing is too small.
Helping someone carry their groceries.
Paying for someone's meal or drink.
Giving someone a free ride.
Helping someone with directions.
Going "out of your way" to help a friend or stranger in need.
All these micro-actions are without any implications of trade-offs. When you recognize your own humanity, you will see it in others without any effort.
Living with gratitude and not expecting something in return. This is where whole hearted living manifests.
How will you implement kind actions into your life?
Will you treat it like a to do list or simple live it?
Being kind is not a competition.
It is not about "fulfilling a task" or "checking a box".
When you accept what is and accept yourself unconditionally and consistently, without the intention of achieving a "desired state", you are living a kind life.
YOU must BE KIND to YOURSELF first.