About Being Nice

Me nearby Lake Pueblo State Park. December 24, 2018.

Some time ago a friend of mine said that she hated a person that is too nice. I asked her what she meant by “too nice”. She said it’s like someone who apologized even if it’s actually not her mistake or even if she’s already forgiven, someone who kept saying “thank you” even though “she didn’t have to.” I couldn’t really respond at that time. My only response was just humming, indicating that I understood what she meant. But truthfully, I felt like being that person that she hated. But I can’t really say that because I don’t want her to hate me… But it really made me wonder; I thought saying sorry and thank-you could make people feel better, or do I do it only to make myself feel better and, quite the opposite, make others feel miserable?

The other day another friend asked me why I was so nice. There was this new student coming from my country, so I asked her if it was okay to tag him along while we’re going shopping to an Asian/oriental store here in case he needed to do some shopping too. I thought it could help him settle a little. After we came back from our road trip, we’d have some time before returning the rented car and we did plan to go shopping to an oriental store anyway, so why not tagging him along as well while we still had the car, right? I mean, later I might not be able to help him as much. To my surprise, though, my friend asked why I was so nice to him (well, maybe because I had never met or known him before that’s why she’s wondering). She asked, “Did he ask you for help?” Well, he did not. But it really made me wonder, “Should I wait for him to ask for my help before deciding to help him?” I don’t know. I told her that it made me sad when I knew people could help me but they didn’t. She said that it wouldn’t make her sad. She said that it would make me sad only if I expected people to help me. Well, I don’t know. Maybe she’s right. Maybe I always expect people to help me. Maybe I expect people to help each other whenever they can. But I’m not sure either. Maybe I’m being defensive, so I said, “Even if I don’t expect people to help me and even if eventually I can do things on my own, it still makes me sad to know that people can actually help but they don’t.” Well, just imagine that you need help, you know I can help but I don’t simply because I don’t want to or because I think you should do it on your own or that you should be independent, won’t it make you sad? Well, maybe not. Maybe it’s just me being oversensitive. I don’t know, but I seriously believe that it’s nicer when someone tries to help lighten our “burden” or “solve our problem”. But as I reflect on this, maybe it’s right that I was just being defensive. I guess, when my friend asked that question, I felt guilty because I then realized that, well, we rented the car for only us two, and suddenly I was being insensitive and selfish by trying to tag a third person she didn’t really know into our plan. Maybe it intruded a bit into her privacy, I don’t know. Maybe I was wrong. But that’s why I asked if it was okay, right? She could’ve said no, no? Or did I actually gave her no choice because it might’ve made her look bad if she said no? I don’t know…

I don’t know. But I can imagine being him, I see myself in him. You know, being a new student coming from a third-world country, not knowing how things work here, etc. Well, some people would argue, he must have known what to expect, he should have learned before coming, etc. He can browse. He can Google. We don’t always have to nurture or coddle someone like him to teach him to be independent. I know. Sometimes I do have those thoughts myself. Sometimes I do say those myself. But at other times, I feel sad. I know how it feels to not want to burden anyone, not to be a nuisance to others. You feel anxious, uneasy, uncomfortable, but you also want to get it quickly done. It’s awful for me. So maybe that’s why. Sometimes I wish I could help more, or maybe I can actually help more but I don’t, so I just do the little thing I can – and maybe to comfort myself. I mean, I don’t want to proclaim myself to be good, kind, and all that stuff. I’m not that saintly. I do have evil thoughts.

So sometimes it upsets me when people ask me why I am being nice. It feels like they’re questioning my sincerity (which maybe yes, it’s “questionable”). But it’s also infuriating; i.e. aren’t we supposed to be nice to each other? So sometimes I have this thought: Next time someone asks (or half complains) why I am so nice, maybe I should reply, ‘Why? Do you want me to be not nice to you?’ Then maybe I can just practice being very not nice to them, make them regret taking me for granted (when I’m being nice), and turn so mean they’d wish they had never asked.

I’m not a very nice person, believe me. I can be very very very mean if I want to. I can think of a thousands words to say to make you feel bad and guilty. I can remind you of your past mistakes, even if you have regretted them, even if they were not really relevant to the cause (or to me), but I can always make sure they’d count because no matter what, it doesn’t change the fact that they happened. I can go wild throwing such vicious ad hominem attacks as that. I can mention every little (good) thing that I’ve done to or for you and make sure you resent letting me do all those things and making you feel like you owe me. You know, sometimes when I feel like I’ve had enough, I can’t help saying one or two but quickly hold myself back because I know it can be very very very not nice.

Me at Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans. November 19, 2018.

You can hate me for being (too) nice. But let me tell you one thing: it feels so awful when people are being not nice to me. And oh, there are millions chances to do good that I miss for one reason and another. Sometimes I see a homeless man and really wonder what I can do to help, but at the same time I am scared that they might turn violent and attack me – because some of them look drunk, you know. Hence, I let them be. Sometimes I see one scattering the trash near my apartment and I imagine maybe if I give them some food they’d be happy. But I don’t, because then I’ll have to go to my apartment first and they’ll know where I live, and if they’re a bad person, they might return at night, rob me, or such. Besides, they might not like Indonesian food I cook. I make excuses not to do good. I miss those chances to do good or help someone not because I can’t but more due to my fear, anxiety, and wild imagination including prejudices towards those to whom I can/want to do good. That’s why I’m very happy to see when others do good/help others, because sometimes it takes courage even to just do it. Also, maybe that’s why when I feel like I can do nice or good things – without having any fear that something bad will happen to me, I’m happy that I don’t have to miss it. So nah, I’m not nice. Maybe I do all those things just to make myself feel good or better. Because making people feel awful the way I’ve been made to feel would make me feel really bad…and I don’t want that.

And I believe this: if you can’t make yourself happy, try to make others happy; it can make you happy. Well, sometimes it works for me. So if you think I’m good n kind for making others happy, maybe it’s not entirely true. Maybe I’m just trying to make myself happy. But whatever the reason is, I think it’s still better than making someone else’s life miserable. Everyone, at some point, feels fucked up even without our ‘interference’. So if our doing can make them a little happier, I think it’s fine. Not that it makes me significant or better. But, well, maybe yes, it makes me feel less worthless. I don’t know.

But, well, my question for you: Why do/would you choose to be not nice when you do have the option to be nice?!

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