Friday, April 20, 2012

Being Nice

I filled out a personal inventory for a friend today. It was just lists of adjectives that I came up with to describe him.

But it started me thinking. How would others describe me?

Of all the adjectives available, I think most people in my life would describe me as "nice".

Such a sterile and dimensionless word. Even at its greatest, it only becomes "so nice". It's like saying a dinner roll is round. Goshdarnit, it's a very round dinner roll.

I guess this concerns me, because I don't even know what adjectives describe myself. I've actually spent a good part of my life trying very hard to be a nice person. And look, here I am!

"Nice" is also upsetting, because it's really not a descriptor at all. It's the attitude I put on to cover up frustration. It's the congeniality I portray when I actually just want to be left alone. It's the stuff that passive-aggressive, overwhelmed introverts like me exude.

Being "nice" means I don't trust others to be genuinely interested in who I really am. But it also allows me to politely greet and dismiss others, without being interested in who they are either.

I'm reminded of a movement that began in the Catholic Church during World War II called Focolare (hearth or fireplace). Its members have a remarkable charism for living present in each moment, and their warmth and attentiveness is striking.

I'll pray for this same grace, as I try to shake off my "niceness."

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