Friday, March 28, 2008

"Nice" is not a Terminal Disease

I've often commented to Claudie, my best friend since college, that some people mistake a person being "nice" as equivalent to merely stupid. A sucker. An easy target. Southerner with a low I.Q. who does unto others as she is foolish enough to believe they will do unto her.

Truth is, I feel sorry for all those folks who seek out a sucker to make them feel better. Makes me wonder if it's a symptom of someone who's alienated so many folks, no one wants to listen to them.

I was just reminded of how my attempt to be nice and caring resulted in mental health benefits for that person and zero tolerance for me. I got to be the Shrink who listened as this unhappy soul laid down on the Internet equivalent of a couch and unloaded. Bad divorce pending. Fighting over the kids. Wrongful arrests, trumped up charges. Every dirty trick in the book. And I sat there, listening and doing my best to be helpful. Playing...nice. I was allowed to get in the occasional complaint since my DNA indicated I'm only human, but my woes were usually brushed off with a joke. So I'd laugh...and go back to being nice.

One day my usefulness came to an end. Another person entered the picture and suddenly my ears were no longer needed. The problem with being "nice" is seeing the train wreck coming and stubbornly insisting on pointing it out in hopes of avoiding a disaster. Nicely, of course. I shared with my patient that I was worried about his inability to quit smoking, the high blood pressure, a work schedule that in and of itself was unhealthy. And then I crossed the line...I gave an honest opinion. I was polite but it was not well received. Maybe it's just me, but anyone who asks you to attend church while trying to get you to commit adultery just doesn't ring true to me. Especially when the party on the couch has stated a concern that children could be lost in such a battle...and that is ignored by the hormones on the part of the party of the second part.

So I bowed out. I tried not to feel used. I reminded myself I learned a valuable lesson about letting others take over the conversation to the point you can't get in a personal word edgewise. A real friend listens to you. And cares what you have to say. Even when the truth hurts.

I found out this week my patient had a major heart attack but survived. Will no doubt be fine because of a generally humorous outlook on life. But I was punished again for offering the truth: most of us were unaware what had happened because we had been cut out of the loop due to the continued presence of the party of the second part. I had listened for almost 2 years until this problem was resolved and because I told the truth, my "patient" contacted only those who'd wished him well. Oh sure, I'd wished him well. But then I'd added the truth.

Sure it stung for a moment. You did read the part where I said I'm only human, right? But then I had the weirdest thought. It was about all the people who'd talked to me about returning the MIA bracelet back to that Captain's son. To a person, they'd all said the same thing,"What you did was so...nice." And they said it with awe, as if nice was something rare, bordering on extinct in our busy world.

So I go on being nice, not because it's expected of me but because I can't seem to help it. It appears I've been born with this unshakable belief that everyone deserves a chance. Should they later prove you wrong, I try to discover how they came to the conclusion I enjoy having the world's problems dumped on my lap. Then I adjust my strategy accordingly.

"Nice" isn't a terminal disease...but in my case, I'm guessing it's incurable.


Bonnie said...

I can only hope that Hope springs eternal and somewhere out there nice does catch on. Sometimes I'm viewed as a fool for being nice to people who aren't nice themselves, but that's the way I was raised. Do unto others, etc.

Unforunately it has been changed from do unto others as you would hve them do unto you into do unto others before they do unto you.

hope said...

Is this why the Meek are suppose to inherit the Earth? Because we played nice. :)

Bonnie said...

At the rate we're destroying this poor planet I'm not sure I want to inherit it. But once we do it's going to take a lot of work to make it 'nice' again :-).