In high school I was big on young adult novels about love and coming of age – some of my favorite authors being Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Jennifer Donnelly.
It was one of the novels by Deb Caletti, I don’t remember which novel as I was reading a book a day back then, where a character said something that still sticks with me to this day. It was something along the lines of “There’s a difference between being good and being nice, and what’s important to remember is that not all nice people are good people.“
Even in high school, I understood that this line held depth and that I needed to remember this. And as the years go by, I recognize each and every day that just because someone is nice doesn’t mean they are good and have my best interest at heart, and just because someone is mean doesn’t mean they are bad and terrible.
It’s important to be able to see through to people’s true intentions in order to shield yourself from potential ruin.
If you think that sounds dramatic, then you haven’t met nice, bad people.
Or maybe you’re nice, bad people.
I make it a point to be friendly to everyone I meet and to show kindness, but in conjunction, I’m honest and will bluntly call situations as I see them. Generally speaking, I also prefer to surround myself with similar people. One of my close friends and I had a conversation where he exasperatedly told me, “Emily, I’m not mean or cruel, and it’s annoying when people see me that way.“
Of course I know he isn’t mean or cruel, he just has a blunt way of dealing with people that I can appreciate and relate to.
I think it’s incredibly important to surround yourself with people who gas you up, sure, but also with people who will bring you down to earth – who will tell you when you’re wrong and not let you get away with shitty behavior.
When you surround yourself with people who only gas you up, all that’s happening is you are being lifted high onto a pedestal of sand that is a mix foundation of mock niceties and a fallacious sense of self-righteousness.
All it will take is one thunderstorm of a human to dissolve your pedestal of sand and leave you lying there helpless, clueless, and looking stupid.
Ultimately, what I’m getting at here, is that it’s important to understand that nice and good are not synonymous. Just because you held the door open for an old lady and then smiled kindly at the waiter who took your order – you aren’t guaranteed a sticker labeling you as good people.
Being good is standing up for what’s right, honoring agreements, not always searching for loopholes that screw people over but lift you up, and lastly not using anecdotes of the nice things you’ve done as justification as to why you’re a better person than Joe Shmoe.
Being good is more than a one off deed.
Another way to look at it, is nice people are always looking at situations as win/lose – good people are always looking to create a win/win situation. Even if the win/win entails conflict or uncomfortable conversations along the way, a good person will choose to face that in order for a mutually better outcome.
Good people tend to go that extra mile in a situation which nice people could interpret as “complicating things.”
Being nice is easy, being good is genuine.