When my daughter was just a little girl, I asked her if she knew what I taught in my classes. She responded, “How to be nice and not be mean.” That was so sweet, and in a very profound sense, so right.
What’s on the inside shows up on the outside. If deep inside we are peaceful and wise, then on the outside that ‘goodness’ shines through. If on the inside, we hold anger, resentment, etc., then that is what emerges on the surface.
Decades ago, it was just considered good manners to express one’s self politely and with dignity. These days, it seems vogue to do the opposite. Some say social media is partially responsible. Accusers no longer face the accused. Social media keeps people at a distance, free to lash out and vent at will.
Some say the drug and hippie wave from the 60s and 70s inspired people to act poorly, letting whatever was inside to be openly expressed. Manners and decorum were rejected. Indignant behavior was considered being true to one’s self. I say that is not being true to oneself. That is being true to one’s issues, inner demons, and inner distortions born of unresolved emotional wounds. Negativity, judgement, anger, and rage are the result of tired darkness within the human soul. We can learn how to express ourselves, but do so constructively with dignity, honor, and respect.
In this regard, being ‘nice’ means having a healthy soul unencumbered by inner emotional wounds. As the soul heals, we spontaneously express ourselves in a positive, not negative, manner. We behave constructively, not destructively. Character assassination of those we judge gives way to wise and reflective speech and behavior. We learn “how to be nice and not be mean”.
To do this properly lies far beyond the realm of suppression of our impulses. Rather it is a matter of purification of our hearts, of our souls, of our minds. That is called by various names: human evolution, psychological health, spiritual growth, etc.
Certainly, there are times when anger may be an appropriate response. But in this world, there is far too much of it rooted, not in wisdom, but in unresolved emotional issues. Certainly, it is normal and natural to have moments of anger. However, there is a problem when life-damaging bias and negativity do not soon quiesce into helpful, positive, useful, kind wisdom, communion, and understanding—what my daughter called: “how to be nice and not be mean”.
Feeling and even expressing anger is natural at times. However, if it is used to verbally attack, offend, ridicule, gossip, degrade, or condemn another, then it has crossed the line into simply being mean. To be nice is not to suppress one’s self, but rather to constructively articulate and express oneself with supportive and loving kindness, sincerity, wisdom, and understanding. Which is to say, to be in a state of oneness with all that is—in other words, the highest meaning of the word “love”—what my daughter called: “be nice and not be mean”.
Expressed in the words of an innocent young child, “how to be nice and not be mean” is the ultimate accomplishment of human evolution.