It always feels a little strange whenever someone calls me “nice” or “sweet”. I don’t think of myself as either of those things, and I certainly don’t try to be so.
What I do try to be is just, treating other people the way I think they deserve to be treated. This means that while there are many people I treat with kindness, there are certain people I’m not nice or sweet to at all; that doesn’t mean I go looking for conflict with them or that I particularly enjoy conflict, but if they bring it to me, I hardly shy away from it. Sometimes I take a pretty harsh line even with people I love, if I think that’s the only way to get through to them; sometimes, I even say things that are designed to hurt them, because pain is the only teacher most of us really obey.
Because good is not always nice, and nice is not always good. I don’t do “nice”; I do “honest” and “just”, as much as possible. (Frankly, I think it’s sad that me honestly communicating the good I see in somebody is met with “You’re so nice/sweet”; it speaks to a fair amount of injustice having been done, that the people who say that to me seem a touch incredulous when I’m simply calling it like I see it.) Some people don’t deserve to be treated kindly or with respect . . . but a lot of people do. All I really do is try to act according to that standard. And yes, compassion is the soul of justice, but often that means compassion for those who have been wronged, which necessitates taking a clear stand against those who have done the wrong; to remain neutral or “non-judgmental” in such cases is to tacitly condone that wrong. And in those cases, I really don’t give a shit whether I seem nice or sweet — to anyone. I don’t like to be unnecessarily hurtful — I’m rather paranoid about it, actually — but when someone has well and truly earned it, I will gleefully deliver the pain. And there are certain kinds of people whose approval I don’t want — sexual predators, bigots of all stripes, you get the picture: basically, anyone who repeatedly, unjustly hurts other people without remorse. Hurt someone who fully deserves it? Fine by me; I’ll even applaud you. Hurt someone who doesn’t deserve it? You’re a jackass, you don’t deserve respect or sympathy, and if you refuse to even attempt to atone for it, I sincerely hope you rot in hell. If our feel-good, stay-positive-at-all-costs society says that makes me a horrible, hard-assed bitch, so be it. After all, as Krishnamurti said, it is no sign of health to be well-adjusted to a sick society.
(This also means that if I have kind words and hugs and kisses for you — which I do for most people I know, because I don’t think that most of the people I know deserve unkindness — you can assume that I think you’re a good person [at least at heart, even if your flaws are fairly prominent] and that you deserve kindness and caring. If I didn’t want you in my worldspace, believe me, I’d leave no room for doubt. But if I treat you with whatever displays of love I feel are appropriate — and my definition of love is pretty broad — please don’t start with the “I’m not worthy” routine. You don’t deserve that, so don’t you fucking do that to yourself.)
There was a time in my life when I did try to be “nice” and “sweet” as much as I could — always giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, trying to stay on good terms with as many people as possible, suppressing my anger and hurt when I’d been wronged in the interest of “forgiveness” (when no one told me that forgiveness is hard fucking work, there is no such thing as “simply” forgiving, and stuffing down all your negative feelings about what happened and pretending it’s all somehow okay “in the end” — as if you’ve truly arrived at “the end”, as if anyone can before they’re dead — is not the same thing as true forgiveness). Being brought up Christian tends to enable such unhealthy modes of thought and behavior, and it’s not as if the rest of our society, however secular, is disentangled from these remnants of religious dogma.
In trying to be as non-destructive as possible, I ended up doing more damage, to myself and to other people — and I learned the hard way that inaction is frequently just as dangerous as action, if not more so. I’m here to tell you that if you try to always be “nice” and “sweet”, you risk doing a great deal more damage to undeserving people through your inaction than you would have if you took some sort of “negative” action against those who deserve it. If nothing else, you do damage to yourself; as just one example of many, ask me about the years I spent suppressing my rage at the dude (to call him a man would be to take pity on him, and he deserves none) to whom sating his own lust was more important than having an ounce of concern for my well-being, when I was all of fourteen years old, too young to know better, and he was far, far past the age when he should have started knowing better. Or, you know, don’t, because we’d be here a while. That’s what the memoir I’m writing is for. The memoir is for illustrating all the ways I damaged myself and other people by denying my sense of justice in favor of what I thought would make me more acceptable, more worthy of love, less alien to everyone else, so other people won’t make the same mistakes I made. And it’s about how I was conditioned to do that damage, about how we all are, because our culture enables it to such a dangerous degree in so many ways that it boggles the mind.
So if you’re someone who tries to be “nice” and “sweet” all or most of the time, think about what I’ve said here, and ask yourself whether it serves you and the people around you as well as you think it does. Don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made. You don’t have to be nice and sweet to be good.