As far back as I can remember, people have referred to me as a ‘nice’ person. This wasn’t something that was considered ‘cool’ among peers in my younger years. It took awhile to figure out what being ‘nice’ really meant in my social environment. But eventually I figured it to usually define someone who doesn’t make enemies or gets enjoyment from talking about others negatively behind their backs. It was always surprising to me how many people criticize others—which would often be done at the expense of humiliation. And for the people doing the humiliating—it often seemed like a way to criticize an aspect of themselves in a weird way. I seldom got involved in these situations, and would often try to walk away or ignore the problems. I couldn’t imagine criticizing others all the time—it takes so much energy! I’d much rather get on with my own life than spending it criticizing others.
I’m constantly thinking about how I can make my relationships with people better. What’s helped is having a level of basic empathy for everyone that I see. We’re all people, and we all have our own emotions ebbing and flowing in different directions. We also have societal and cultural expectations, which help form our ideas of how to behave with each other. Regardless of these, I never think lowly of someone just because of their appearance or mannerisms. Without truly getting to know someone, it’s always too easy to dismiss why someone is the way they are.
Simply getting to know someone beyond the basic banter about things like the weather is one of the ways I build some integrity. Even if it doesn’t end up being a strong relationship—I’ve found that it makes me want to be a kinder, more responsible person. I’ve met so many new people in the last couple years because of volunteering in my community, and I can easily say that it’s opened more doors towards the things I really want to do in my life. The more I open myself up to others, usually they’ll respond with the same generosity.
Instead of being just a ‘nice’ person, I’ve tried to inspire others to make nicer communities. If we want to have less people criticizing others, I think we should try to lead by example—no matter how small these kind acts of building meaningful connections are. It’s part of building some integrity in all of us.