Stop Being Nice

Ever told yourselfyou were being too nice ? Ever felt taken for granted ? Like what you did was not appreciated and you wish you didn’t do it ?

I still bump into that one. I do something for someone (sometimes even if the person didn’t even ask me to do it), and then I feel like the person is « not grateful enough » compared to how much I went out of my way to help them. And I'm asking myself : « Am I too nice ? »

But it’s not that easy. Because we are taught to be helpful, that relationships are the most important in life, and we don’t want to die alone with no one around! So isn’t it necessary to stretch and make sure we are there for our friends and family ? Not even mentioning the Bhuddist and all their talk about compassion !

In Charles Dicken’s  A Christmas Carol, we see how Ebenezer Scrooge, a grumpy and lonely old man who cares only about money, is transformed by the visitation of the ghosts of the past, present and future. He sees the future that awaits him should he keep on going as he does : die alone with no one to mourn him. That is enough to transform him and change him into a generous man. And that transforms his life from gloom and dry to happy and colorful.

And then we see Gandhi, Mother Theresa,  the Dalai Lama and so forth. While we all agree that they are about as awesome as it gets, most of us would actually prefer being a Kanye West than a Dalai Lama. Or so it seems, given the way we act. We spend more time worrying about how to get richer, make sure we're heard and take selfies  than we do thinking about meditating and helping others.

Obviously, there is a contradiction between what we think we should or could be « in an ideal world » and how we act in our daily life. Most of the time, the reason we give is that, if we are « too nice », we will be taken advantage of. Yes, the ideal would be if we were all Dalai Lamas, but that’s just not the case, wesay.

So what to do ? I used to go between feeling guilty when I « put myself first » and feeling taken advantage of when I’m « nice ». Obviously, something was not quite right.

That’s when I realized I had it all wrong from the beginning. Dickens, Buddha, Gandhi and the others were NOT talking about being nice! They were talking about kindness and compassion.

I was being nice, instead of being kind. The difference is that being nice comes from what we think we are expected to do, when being kind comes from an authentic place in our heart. Being nice is doing something out of obligation, because we're afraid of saying no or to look good, without even listening to our heart, to our authentic expression. Being kind is expanding our heart in love and compassion again and again, so that when we extend a hand to another, it comes from all our being, not just the surface. Being kind is thinking "what can I give?" instead of "what will I get in return?"

If you look carefully, you’ll probably discover that most of the times you felt taken advantage of or you regretted helping another, you were not acting from an authentic place. You were not doing it from the heart, you were doing it because you felt like you had to or were supposed to. Probably it was not an authentic yes.

Being kind requires courage. Loads of it. It requires us to be honest with ourselves and others, take risks, be judged, and yes, even get taken advantage of sometimes. Do and say the difficult things, the ones that are uncomfortable and don’t get us instant reward.

Being kind forces us to be bigger than ourselves. And, what a coincidence ! That is also what is required to manifest our dreams.