Everyone has someone in his or her life who they find it extremely difficult to be nice to. It's a daily occurrence. In our culture, your level of sarcasm, anger, and quick wit are deeply valued. Your ability to be cold, turned off, and calculated is considered more important than your ability to feel deep, deep happiness.
Why is this?
The media is one answer. We are bombarded with homicides, bombings, accidents, and negative news every single day. We are given 'heroes' who win fights, triumph over everyone else, and blow stuff up in an effort to fix something.
In that vein, another reason is the people we exalt. They are often murderers, who kill in the name of something self-important. They are sometimes religious leaders, who advertise themselves as modern day Robin Hoods but are really crooks, taking for their own selfish gain.
I think one primary reason is our use of social media. I believe that social media can be a great influence, connecting people, helping introverts find their voice, and bringing unity across states, even countries. However, social media also provides a faceless place for people to hate others. It breeds pain, suffering, bullying, and hatred. You don't have to own up to anything if no one can see you. If you can't be confronted, you're off the hook.
I believe that a combination of these things is what is preventing us from simply being nice.
Now, I don't consider myself to be Mother Theresa or anything. I yell at drivers on the road (who can't hear me.) I gripe about how people talk to me. I complain about what someone said or did to me and how it made me feel. There is, however, one thing I try very hard to do every single day, in every single interaction with others: I try to be nice.
Growing up, one of the things my mother said to me more than anything else was, "Everyone is a soul." I didn't always know what this meant. I began to comprehend it in high school, when I was mistreated by many who didn't understand me. I started to understand more when my parents got divorced and I had to muddle through those feelings. I understood even more when I got divorced and I had to work out custody arrangements with Juniper's dad. Every single day, as I run a preschool, I am reminded of this reality. Every single person that you encounter on a daily basis is a soul, valued by the God of the universe and capable of every emotion you are. Everyone you pass by, smile at, meet, interact with, is fighting a battle that you know nothing about. There is no way for you to know unless you ask, but you shouldn't have to ask. Chances are, if you are having a rough day, someone else who crosses your path today is, too. Before you begin to reply to someone who might be pushing your buttons, think of this: Did they just find out that a parent has terminal cancer? Were they pulled over this morning? Have they just come from a funeral? Could they be having marital problems? Maybe they just received a foreclosure notice or lost their job. Perhaps their child has been missing for a day. Maybe they just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. No, that isn't your fault. However, you have the opportunity to perhaps make their day better just by being nice.
I have found, in my experiences with being nice, that people make one of two assumptions about me. One, they assume that I want something or that I have an ulterior motive. Two, they resort to sarcasm because WHO COULD POSSIBLY CHOOSE TO BE NICE IN THIS DAY AND AGE OMG. My reaction to those assumptions? Be nicer.
I try to teach my daughter many things. I try to teach her respect. I teach her not to stare but to ask questions. I teach her how to say please and thank you. I teach her that sometimes other friends get to go first with the new toy. I teach her that she needs to use her words. Above all of these things, though, I am teaching her to be nice. I want her to know that everyone deserves kindness, dignity, a smile, and a chance to say what they need to say. By the time that she's a teenager, I might be the only person in her life telling her these things, but I don't care. I want to be the squeaky wheel. I want to tell her to be nice so much that she's annoyed by it, but it sticks in her head and she can't help but be nice. I want her to be the shoulder to cry on, the friend who will always listen, the friend who comes to your rescue, who calls you just to pray for you, who brings you muffins when you're sick, who buys a coffee for the homeless guy, who brings her leftovers to soup kitchens and asks the girl crying on the bench at the grocery store if she's O.K .I want her to know how to be nice, so that maybe, others will be nice to her, too.
Brooke + JuneBug