For over a year I’ve been trying to articulate the inherent difference between someone who is kind and someone who is nice. They are, at best, imperfect synonyms and this has been hammered into me over the thirty-some years people have been complaining to me (or around me) about the perils of niceness while dating. I think the divide carries over into most of our interactions. It’s a bit like the idea that someone can be an asshole and still be good.
Good isn’t a synonym for kind or nice either. I think there’s an inherent element of good in sincerity and compassion, but I don’t think it’s an either or thing. Goodness is tied up in how we view the world, whether or not we try to help others, how we try to help others, why we try to help others—good is tied into how we try to make a difference in the world great or small.
We all have seeds in our personalities that our families feed or let wither. We all throw seeds into the wind as we grow up, interact with others, figure out who we are, and move in the world. Some people will trend toward the lowest element in their make-up no matter how awesome their childhood and family is. Some people will transcend the worst circumstances no matter how difficult their early years.
My job is to seed the wind, to hopefully make people think, and to be okay with the fact that I will rarely see what seeds sprout or what comes of them. Someone else will reap those whirlwinds.
The upshot is:
- Kindness: sincere concern for the well-being of others applied through action
- Niceness: actions that appear kind, but are done with the intention of garnering favors