Have I lost my edge?

be boldI have been called nice – a lot – frequently. I know people mean well, but nice can be…er, well…nice. It is so fluffy, so sweet, so damning with faint praise.  There is no bite in nice – and that is precisely the point. Nice is toothless and gummy. It leaves no marks.

Nice lacks gravitas. There is no substance, and good God, it is certainly perceived as the antithesis of power and strength.

As a child, my father called me the “one with balls” and my younger sister was described as “damn nice.” At the time, I inwardly howled, “But I am nice, too.” I thought I could be both.

Nice suggests an agreeability that supersedes opinion, choice, and preference because you are not rocking the boat or creating havoc. Nice is bland, it is the vanilla ice cream of characteristics.

Synonyms for the word “nice” are pleasant, enjoyable, good, kind, polite, agreeable, fine, and even lovely, amusing, and wonderful. Well, those last three nailed it, I am nice!

Maybe this word isn’t so bad after all. Perhaps, I need to begin a major advertising campaign with some leathered and lathered-up hairy rocker proudly screeching that he is N-I-C-E – complete with some pelvic thrust action to accentuate the point. The word “nice” definitely needs a spin doctor, a make-over, or a comeback story after going rogue. Because, truth be told, there is still a bit of saccharine aftertaste with the word “nice.”

Truly, we don’t take nice very seriously. These days, nice is no longer an accolade. It feels like more of a fallback position when you have little to say about a seemingly inoffensive person. See…we’re back to vanilla ice cream.

Or are we?

Does it take guts to be nice in this world of me, me, me, and what-about-me?  If the flip side of nice is unpleasant, unappealing, disgusting, disagreeable, unkind, and nasty, do I want to punish “nice” for its seemingly toothless innocuousness? Does “nice” simply have a bad rep or, more pointedly, can “nice” have a mouthful of teeth but choose not to bare them – or, at the very least, choose not to draw blood with them?

Perhaps, it’s time to rethink “nice.” We love Jimmy Stewart; his movie portrayals are often the King of Nice. Think of “It’s a Wonderful Life”…we all still get a little misty-eyed at the big ending filled with niceness, no matter how many times we have seen the movie.

We love hearing stories of someone who out of the goodness of their heart helps another person in distress. And hey, doesn’t that count as nice? There is the neighbor who helps you rescue your snickering, laser-eyed cat from a tree top named Olympus, or the individual who picks up the apples that are merrily rolling down the aisle of the Piggly-Wiggly before taking out the oncoming shopper and sending her sliding into baked goods. Whether small or large, these heart-driven, happy-to-help gestures of kindness are nice.

In a world where human decency often takes a back seat to greed and power, it can take guts to be nice. If you are engaged with the world and not a two-dimensional being, nice requires caring, consideration, and thoughtfulness.

If I can be authentic, speak my truth without taking any heads, and still be kind, courteous, and peaceful, have I lost my edge or has my edge become more refined?

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6 Responses to Have I lost my edge?

  1. Adele Ryan McDowell February 6, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

    You make me smile! And, for the record, you are one of the most courageous people I know. Much love, dear heart.

  2. Terry Parese February 6, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    After my last, long response to your “got prayer?” writing, I just NEED to tell you one thing we have in common from our younger years! When I was leaving my first serous love, Chick said to me, “you have more balls then anyone I know”. I never forgot where we were when we had the discussion, nor will ever forget his words!
    I am proud to know your father told you the same! 🙂
    xoxo Terry

  3. Adele Ryan McDowell February 1, 2014 at 12:56 am #

    Lisa, you are most kind. Just write like you. It took me awhile to find my writing voice in all of its variations. Just write like you…that would be the best…your unique voice, your unique view point, your unique style. Good luck.

  4. Na'ama Yehuda January 19, 2014 at 9:23 am #

    Had to add:
    A little boy complained to me just a couple of days ago that he “doesn’t like being nice.”
    When I asked him what “being nice” meant, he responded: “to be nice is always to do what the grownups say and not be whiny…”
    I told him that I believe being nice means to be kind. Kind to other people and kind to himself, too. And that even nice people whine sometimes, such as when they are hungry or overtired.
    He pondered that last bit a moment, then said, rather victoriously, “oh, so my mommy also has to be nice to me because even grownups have to!”

  5. Lisa January 18, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    where might I learn to write like you?

  6. Na'ama Yehuda January 17, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    Sorry, Adele, you ARE nice…
    Actually, scratch that. You are NICE.
    In the cutting-edge, openhearted, big-soul, whole-picture, empathetic, truthful, kind, un-hurting way of niceness. The type that’s oh-so-needed in the world, and ever so appreciated.
    Those who have a hard time saying ‘no’ or keeping kind even in the place of boundaries, tend to give “nice” a bland flavor. It is the easy way to put down what is so hard to maintain–the stance of taking everyone into consideration. Not only your own wants and wishes, but also those of others, and the world, and what needs fixing.
    Nice includes a sharp word that is meant to re-direct, but will be spared the harshness of haughty.
    Nice can set a boundary without stepping onto another’s space or tying up their hands in double binds and emotional blackmail.
    Nice can help support without being lost in wallowing. It hold light where one own hall is darkened. It reminds that there is always someone there, and that they care.
    Nice is strong.
    There are no weaklings in the truly nice.
    Being NICE does not equate with being spineless or afraid of critic or wanting to avoid others’ disagreement. It does mean seeking fairness, and believing that honor and respect are good currencies and better than demand or trickery.
    NICE is wonderful (though of course there are those who think that ‘nice’ means shallow and sallow, unpretentious, uninspired, unremarkable–they say so because they are viewing ‘nice’ through the lens of control, power, and how much one has in comparison to another or how many one has under them in status, finance, or perceived ability; not the right lens for “nice” at all!).
    So…you are nice, Adele. You are really really NICE.
    And oh boy do you got your edge!

    By the by, I thought N.I.C.E stood for: Nifty Intelligent Compassionate Empathy…