This I Believe
As I age, my ideas refine themselves into statements of seeming simplicity. Take for example the sentence; ‘I like nice people’. How benign, how prosaic, how grade two. Yet I feel that this return to simple sentence structure took a deep and winding path. From early school days I was asked to replace the word ‘nice’ with something more descriptive. A word with juice and chew. A word that provides interest where ‘nice’ falls sadly short.
By college I had more or less swallowed the lesson and kept my trusty thesaurus close by. It was a well-known fact that professors were helpless in the presence of papers edited with a thesaurus. Or so I believed. ‘Nice’ was avoided at all costs. No single word in the English language was more replaceable, more banal, or more flat out boring than ‘nice’. Instead, I used ‘compassionate’, ‘kindly’, ‘delightful’, ‘respectable’, ‘tactful’, and ‘amiably pleasant’. All to avoid the stigma of illiteracy associated with ‘nice’.
Interestingly, ‘nice’ is also defined as ‘showing, or requiring great precision, skill, tact, or care’. Certainly this refined and more deliberate use of nice could still be used within a body of writing without incurring the illiteracy stigma? I certainly never risked it.
However, as I became aware of the World’s events unfolding around me, as I took on work and responsibility, married and had a child, my feelings about ‘nice’ began to shift. As humans we each have flaws and strengths with which to carve out our life, we interact and experience, learning from our mistakes. And sometimes not. One of the patterns of which I am increasingly aware, is the harm done by the lack of ‘nice’. I’ve been known, on occasion, to say things that are truly hurtful and damaging to people I love. It’s really quite easy, it only takes a second or two, my unkindness, my lack of ‘nice’, but it takes infinitely longer to repair the wounds and rebuild trust. Alas this affliction seems to be inherent in the human condition. Every day I see evidence of thoughtless words and careless actions, from litter on the streets to injured or irreparable relationships. The poisonous results of which appear to me, if not the outright causes, then at least the feeder roots of global issues such as poverty, strife in the Middle East and the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch. Often, if I’m having a particularly globally aware day, I feel like ‘nice’ is not so commonplace after all. ‘Nice’ is actually quite a scarce and valuable commodity. We could use a lot more ‘nice’.
Nowadays the traits I wish to cultivate in myself, the traits I respect most in other human beings, are compassion and understanding, tact, delight, and amiable pleasantness, I admire precision, care, and delicacy. I believe in ‘nice’.
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