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How To Be Nice A Person

Updated on June 19, 2013

There are of course many projects and organizations and policies and undertakings that are all about trying to improve the world, in big sweeping steps and in one-on-one efforts. In my lifetime I’ve watched the civil rights movement reshape this nation’s attitude and approach to race. But my own thinking usually goes to the behind the practical stuff, the initial inside each of us steps that eventuate in projects and organizations, etc . . . in essence, I think we need to change us if we want to see our world changed – we need to improve the individual if we want the society to improve.

Now, as per my title, I think the most basic idea when we look at the individual and how each of us either contribute or detract from general state of our society is, simply the idea of being nice. Now, ‘nice’ is not my favorite word, I kind of don’t take it as great encouragement if someone says my writing is ‘nice’ or if a meal I prepare is referred to as ‘nice’, etc. However, the frequently thin accolade ‘nice’ is actually a bit more informative when attached to people . . . saying someone is a ‘nice person’ seems a more genuine tribute than saying those are ‘nice shoes’ or that was a ‘nice roast chicken’. Yet, I think it useful to elaborate just a bit on what ‘nice’ means in referencing a person.

Consider The Wellbeing And Delight Of Others

When I count someone to be ‘nice’ I recognize a kindness in them toward others, a deferring, an attention to the interest of others . . . someone who is a nice person is someone who is happy to consider the well-being and delight of others. In practical terms, when two people approach the last meatball on a serving plate at the same time, and ‘Joe’ snatches it up thinking ‘I’m not letting ‘Fred’ get the last meatball, who does he think he is?’ and ‘Fred’ motions to ‘Joe’ to go ahead and take the last meatball thinking ‘Those meatballs were delicious and I don’t know if Joe had one yet or not, I’ll try something else’, then ‘Fred’ is the nice guy.

So, why are some people just nice and others not? How do some people come to a disposition where they look out for their own interests first, while some people seem inclined to think of others first? What are the ways we can think, before we act, that can direct us to be nice to others and thereby improve the world we all have to live in? What ideas can we cultivate into our approach to others that will make everything better for all of us? The first idea that comes to my mind is this; we must not think of ourselves more highly than we ought.

Not Think Of Ourselves More Highly Than We Ought

This is both a Biblical and common sense idea. It’s easy for the guy who is willing to snatch for himself the last meatball that no one is any better than he is . . . that ‘who does he think he is?’ sentiment is essentially saying ‘he’s no better than me’. Many people go through life with that sentiment defining their relationships with others . . . with neighbors, coworkers, etc, it’s always a matter of not letting anyone get the better of them, not letting anyone get anything more than they should and making sure they themselves get everything that’s coming to them.

People will fuss about a fence 3 inches on their side of a property line, not because they have any actual use in mind for those 3 inches, but just because it’s their 3 inches and not their neighbor’s. The internal thinking is along the lines of ‘Why should he get my 3 inches, why should he get the last meatball, he’s no better than me, who does he think he is?’ But, just thinking in practical terms, if he’s no better than you – you’re no better than him either. We must not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Nobody deserves that meatball, nobody has a right to it, nobody has to be the meatball winner or the meatball loser – there will be many more meatballs in your life, it’s nice to let this one go to someone else who likes meatballs, you are no better than he is just as much as he is no better than you are.

Everything Balances Out By The End

And the reality that there will be many more meatballs in your life suggests that this need not be a last stand adventure, you don’t have to ‘win’ this one any more than you have to win all of them all the time. Everything balances out by the end . . . I detest when folks want to fiddle with the restaurant check to an excruciating detail, I figure let’s just rough divide by 4 (or whatever) and if I pay more then I owe this time I’ll likely pay less than I owe next time – and if ‘Fred’ consistently gets more expensive drinks, take note of that and add a few bucks to his portion of the divide. It’s when we take every episode of life as some crucial adventure of not letting anyone get over on us that the nice disappears. Look at the big picture of life, I’ve enjoyed many meatballs already, there will be more meatballs later on, and if I never get another meatball in my life that’s no valid reason to be unkind to people.

You’re Not The Only One With A Life Story

Another way we let unkindness creep into our treatment of others is considering our own circumstances with great care while not giving other’s circumstances a second thought. As you stand face to face with your nemesis overlooking that last juicy meatball, think of him . . . who is he, were has he been, what’s happening in his life right now. Seriously. I’ve come to the habit of looking over at that guy across from me and recognizing that; while I may have stubbed my toe earlier that day, he may have just come from his doctor’s office having received sobering news. While I may have a boss who’s no fun to be around, he may have just lost his job. While I may have just come from my mother’s and had to mow her lawn, he may have just come from his mother’s funeral. We’re not the only ones going through life, the same kinds of struggles and hardships that might cause us to be ill-tempered or impatient with others are the same kinds of struggles and hardships everyone has to contend with.

It’s as simple as this; when that guy driving behind you is way too close and obviously wants to pass you, just consider that he may be heading to the hospital after receiving a distressing call – forget that ‘no one’s going to get over on me’ disposition and let him pass . . . if it turns out he’s just a jerk who wants to be at the front of the line, so what, big deal, if being at the front of the line is important to him, let him have his measly front of the line. When I come across someone who behaves a bit like a jerk, I assume he’s not had the opportunities, or the love, that I’ve enjoyed in life. My question to myself is not ‘why does he have to be such a jerk?’, but rather I think to myself ‘I wonder if I’d being doing half as good as he is, if I’d be twice the jerk he is if I were in his shoes?’

It’s Just Better, For Us, To Be Nice

And if the guy doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, but simply is a big fat jerk, I figure ‘that’s too bad, for him.’ It’s just plain and simple better for us to be nice instead of mean to others. It’s no fun being a jerk, it’s no fun always making sure you get what you deserve, it’s not even fun always getting things your way. This is the thing that not-nice people miss completely; living your life making sure that others don’t get more than they should and that you get all you’re supposed to get, etc, is a drag.

It’s kind of like the kid who brings his school books home, writes-out a fake homework paper to show his parents, then tells his teacher he lost his paper, etc, just to get out of having to do his homework – it would have been easier to just do the homework and then he could have gotten and A or a B instead of an F. People who are constantly on the lookout that no one gets over on them, that no one else gets away with anything, that they get everything that’s coming to them, etc, are not happy people. The guys who give the last meatball to the other fellow, the guy who lets the ‘jerk’ behind him pass, the kid who actually does his homework, etc, these are the people who enjoy life.

How To Be Nice To People

The first step in making this a better world is being better people. The first step in being better people is being nice to others. So, how do you be nice to people?

Consider the wellbeing and delight of others: see your responsibilities as to your family and community, see your duties as to your work, see your accountability as to your citizenship, etc – but see your personal mission as providing a positive moment to all those you bump into in life.

Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought: nobody’s better than you, but don’t forget that you’re no better than anyone else – if everyone makes it their task to make sure everyone else is treated fairly, then none of us will have to guard our own rights.

Recognize that everything balances out by the end: don’t win the battle but lose the war, those little ‘victories’ don’t add up to happiness, that isn’t the very last meatball ever, it’s just the last meatball tonight.

You’re not the only one with a life story: everyone else has just as much hurt and bad fortune as you, everyone else has just as much cause to be intolerant or harsh, rather than act out your own misery on others try to encourage and aid them in dealing with their own misery.

Remember that it’s just a better life when you’re nice to other people: when we forgive others it affects us more than it affects them, when you are nice to someone that puts your whole day, your whole life, in a different place . . . nothing tastes better than giving that last meatball away to another.

The H.O.W. website ~


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