Putting It On Nice
Sorry for the silent week, folks, but I've been doing a lot of thinking this past week. Some of my interactions, conversations, and observations have all been culminating around one single adjective: NICE.
I'm finding that "nice" is one of those two-edged swords. Here in central Iowa, we have our fair share of people who have turned passive-aggression into a lifestyle (some might argue, a food group). For them, being "nice" is only a face thing, and the hug is meant as a vehicle to stab someone else in the back.
My wife often will use "nice" as a first defense for an acquaintance who might be lacking in competence or other social skills. She's always pointing out to me, "Yeah, but they're nice." My inside voice almost always retorts with the old line, "...and Hell will be filled with 'nice' people."
The kicker was Peggy Noonan's article in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday. The entire essay was on being nice. She talked about how we need to listen to grandmotherly wisdom about what is and is not nice. Ms. Noonan talked about how we need to be more conscious of what makes people wince. When people wince; somebody is not being nice. Her summary was nothing short of eloquent brilliance:
"As long as political correctness reigns, the more antic among us will try to break out with great streams of Tourette's-like forbidden words and ideas. We should forbid less and demand more. We should exert less pressure from without and encourage more discipline from within. We should ask people to be dignified, hope they'll be generous, expect them to be fair. When they're not, we should correct them. But we shouldn't beat them to a pulp. Because that's not nice."
I've been writing on Office-Politics.com for two months now. The owner and founder of the site, Franke James, pointed out to me that the writers to the site carry a common theme of moral justice and fairness. Their antagonists, more often than not, are accused of being mean, or at a minimum of not being nice, not playing fair, or not caring about anybody but themselves. Maybe that's it. Maybe there's an inverse correlation between being apathetic and being nice.
I'm not sure what the answer is. However, as I was driving home from class tonight, I noticed a bumper sticker I've seen a million times before: