“That’s not very nice.”
“It would be nice if you would do…”
“It’s nice to compliment people.”
“Not sharing isn’t nice.”
“It would be nice of you if you would work overtime for me this weekend.”
Nice Nice Nice. Nice means to be pleasant or agreeable.
Instead of saying “be nice,” how about we say “be authentic.”
If someone asks me or my child if I like their new dress, do I lie and say, “of course, it’s beautiful!” when I actually think it isn’t? What kind of example am I setting with these “white lies”? Sure, they are pleasant and agreeable, but are they true? What if the person asking isn’t sure and actually wants to know what I think? I could say “it’s a unique print, do you like it?” Because that’s what matters.
Being polite isn’t the same thing as being nice. Being polite doesn’t require lying.
Is lying acceptable?
My opinion on this person’s dress should have no bearing on how they feel about their dress. They bought it, after all. If you like it, wear it. Don’t depend on someone else’s approval for your happiness. Because if you do it will lead to a long and miserable life, always weighing your happiness on the next compliment, the next praise, and the next person’s approval.
The only approval that should matter is our own.
When a child walks up to an old man in the post office, an old man that is large with a giant white beard, and says, “Excuse me? Are you Santa Claus?” (yes it happened), I shouldn’t shush him and tell him that wasn’t nice. I can let them work through the conversation. Thankfully, the man thought it was hilarious and was very sweet. During this exchange, I was the one that was uncomfortable speaking authentic truths. My parents always told me to “be nice” and not ask “offensive” questions so people would like or accept me.
Without asking authentic, potentially offensive questions, how on Earth will we ever develop meaningful relationships? Have meaningful conversations? Make a difference in the world?
People don’t make a positive difference in the world by being quiet about things that might be uncomfortable or offensive.
The only way to avoid making waves is by doing nothing, and what kind of life is that.
Sure, there are times when being authentic can hurt someone’s feelings. Those hurt feelings though, are because that person needed the external approval or agreement more than the true answer. These people need to be careful what they ask of others (myself included, at times). We are all responsible for our own happiness (as well as our own actions and reactions). If we let someone else’s truth bring us down, when we asked them for it, that is on us.
Yes, there are people who are cruel. Cruelty is not the same as honesty. People who are cruel are not being authentic. They are hiding their own wounds by lashing out at others.
But being authentic is being honest.
To answer my question above, are any lies acceptable? Sure, they are accepted. They happen every day, but lies don’t equal authenticity. If you have to lie, it means you don’t feel safe being honest. When you lie, you are hiding your true self for fear of rejection, criticism, or shame. Yes, of course I have lied. I have lied in big ways and in small “polite” and “nice” ways. When I lied, it was because I believed that my truths weren’t acceptable to others. My truths were sometimes harsh, hard to swallow, painful, or risky. But they were my truths.
I have spent the last few years of my life digging around in my head and shining a spotlight on my insecurities. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it is essential for growth, healing, and overcoming my past. Now, when presented with an opportunity that could result in either a lie to please, or to be honest and potentially upset someone, I take a moment. I think about what the purpose of the lie would be (am I doing it to avoid a negative reaction from someone) and how I would feel after telling the lie. One lie usually requires more lies, or hiding things, or avoiding people and situations. That isn’t the kind of life I’m trying to lead.
If you tell someone that you would rather not go to the movies this weekend, that is being authentic.
If you give someone a hug after a hard day, that is being authentic.
Telling someone you aren’t a huge fan of their new hairstyle, that is being authentic.
If people are always honest, won’t everyone take that as an excuse to be jerks?
No. Jerks will always be jerks. Our children will learn to be honest by watching parents be honest. Children will learn to be compassionate by seeing their parents offering compassion. Children will learn empathy by watching their parents showing empathy. Honesty, compassion, and empathy would carry the human race far, far away to a land of acceptance and kindness. A place with fewer mental health issues, more giving, and less taking.
So stop being nice and start being authentic. Only then can you change the world for the better.