This I Believe

Sam - Madison, Connecticut
Entered on June 4, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

I used to think that being nice was something that couldn’t be overdone. I used to think that it was better to be too nice rather than too harsh. But I don’t believe these things anymore.

My parents always preached to me the values of caring and niceness, imploring me to be nice under the illusion that the nicer you are, the more likely other people will be nice to you. But this doesn’t happen much in real life. I learned that the hard way.

During middle school, I tried to be nice to everyone. And it seemed to be working. I gave people respect, and people respected me in return. But that “nice guy” attitude made me an appealing target for exploiters, particularly one group. Oh, they lured me in well, putting on happy faces and pretending to give me some respect. They even invited me to play basketball with them. But they had a plan up their sleeves. While we were in the gym shooting around, one of them rolled a ball into the corner, asking if I could go get it for them. I complied, not thinking much of it. After all, what harm could it do? But as I trotted over to retrieve the ball, one of the kids pulled the fire alarm, fleeing out through a back entrance while I was still on the other side of the gym. Fortunately, I didn’t get in trouble, but the impression that the experience had on me was indelible. These people knew I was nice to a fault, but instead of respecting me for it, they took advantage of me.

As I became older, my wall of idealistic views on being nice dismantled, brick by brick. Everywhere I looked, I saw people like me being made fun for being pushovers and wimps. I kept trying to keep a façade of niceness, as I always had, but it wasn’t working. I’d let kids copy some answers on homework, naively hoping that they would at least show some respect, but to no avail.

You see, I used to think that niceness was like a currency; something that could be exchanged for things like respect and likeability. But I realize now that most people don’t look upon being too nice as something to respect. They look at it as a fault, and they’ll exploit it.

I believe that it is a bad thing to be too nice. It’s good in moderation, but I’ve learned that sometimes I just have to put my foot down. If someone misses a shot and their basketball rolls onto the other side of the gym, I don’t need to go get it for them. Or if someone doesn’t do their homework and asks me for the answers, I’m not obligated to bail them out. Only by standing up for myself can I get the respect that I seek. This I believe.