Enough with Niceness

This morning my philosophical friend said, ‘We keep calling spade a feather. Let’s call a spade a spade. We need to dig into the truth. The truth is rude and blunt. Truth empties out all the bullshit.’

One colleague told me recently, ‘Religion is not nice.’ I told this to my philosophical friend and she replied, ‘That’s true. And Jesus was tough.’

Niceness is everywhere and nowhere is it sincere. The UPS guy apologizes after hearing that my bike is damaged. Why the knee-jerk apology? I didn’t ask for it, and I don’t need it. Flight attendants apologize when your plane lands five minutes behind schedule. So what? Customer service is so very, very nice, and businesspeople are delicate, polite, squeamish.

Nobody wants to hurt anyone by being direct and truthful; nobody wants to be hurt by anybody by speaking up; everyone believes that he or she is on the verge of being hurt or of hurting others, it seems. We refrain and restrain, and we’re vigilant. We are always watching and scrutinizing ourselves, careful not to say anything that might upset someone else, jeopardize our social standing, or compromise our position. The business word is strategic. The vague pseudo-ethical term is empathy or compassion.

Everyone is strategic, and that’s shameful. Niceness is false.

Sentimentality is nauseating, bullshitting (i.e., a lack of care for truthfulness) is unpalatable, and niceness is enervating. Meanwhile, the truth is hard, it’s blunt, it’s rude, it’s feisty. It also can be cheerful, relieving, joyful. Anyway, it does ’empty out of us all the bullshit.’ To find the truth, we need to cut out all the bullshit, forgo squeamishness, go for broke, examine ourselves, come what may. Who knows what we’ll find?

Make no mistake: rejecting niceness doesn’t mean embracing meanness. Both go down hard. Without both, we can put ourselves on the line.

And if we don’t? Then niceness will continue to keep us from knowing ourselves and from getting to know our fellows. Don’t hurt me, don’t get hurt by me. Well, that’s no way to introduce yourself to yourself or others.

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