Let’s Just Be Nice To Each Other

Being raised essentially with an absent father, I came to respect and admire the owner of a music studio where I worked as a young teen.  As a surrogate father, or more accurately, a big brother since I was 13 and he was 23, he was the first normal adult male in my young life.  I watched him closely.

He was the most honest person I had ever known, so, I learned to value honesty.  Watching this very independent, hard working man, I learned to be diligent.  As one who was fearless, he gave me confidence.  As one who started college later in life, I followed his example.  He also was not very nice to most people, and viewed many of them as inferior to himself.   No doubt I picked up some of that also.

In his latter years he lived alone with his horses and dogs out in the country.  I’m not sure his sons had much to do with him, and he didn’t seem to have any friends , but none of that seemed to bother him.  There were times when his macho persona was down and we talked about serious things and then I was sort of his equal, but those were only in later years.  For all of the desirable qualities he possessed, the major fault, which ultimately mattered most, is that he just would not be nice to people, and predictably, they responded by avoidance.

I was too young during our years of association to think or talk about his background; I knew little of his family and the experiences that shaped his behavior.   But without a doubt something in his growing up and formative years took a negative turn that helped shape his course in life.   In looking back he no doubt could have been diagnosed with some form of personality disorder.  In his last few years he did begin to attend a church, but I never knew the impact that may have had on his life.  During any of my visits he was the same old guy, just older but with some mellowing that happens with old.

I was working for a university program when a new secretary in the department one day was in tears.  I must have asked what was wrong, I don’t recall, but she said with a tearful voice, “I just wish everyone would be nice to me and let me do my job.”  For decades after that, I used her comment often to tell combative counselees that they could solve their problems by “just being nice to each other.”  Most of those students just looked at me weird.  But you know, it’s true.  And it’s simple.

I know many people who are nice to each other.  But then I hang out mainly with Christians and we’re supposed to be that way.  I have even worked with professed Christians who are nice on the job, imagine that.   And I’ve known a few who may leave their faith at home, or at church, and are not very “nice” in the real world.

As a young professional I had the privilege of working for one man with a doctorate who understood the responsibility of mentoring a vulnerable newbie.  Not only did he instill confidence, but with positive expectations created an environment of growth and maturity.  I flourished.  Conversely, an indirect boss, also a doctorate, fostered fear and resentment.  He caused me some sleepless nights.  As an intelligent, educated man, he was an emotional midget.  His personality beat people into submission.  Most would have said that he was not a very nice man.

Spending my third life (once again, not reincarnated) in the counseling field, I have had the privilege of working with a number of these kinds of people and almost without fail they can be lumped into a similar category.  That is, at the core of their being they have varying degrees of feeling inadequate and inferior.  The old worn out description of “over compensation” is not without merit.  They live that way.  Most of us somewhere along the way have done that very same thing.  The difference is, the majority of us grow out of it.  We learn to know and accept our strengths and weaknesses and make adjustments accordingly.  We become honest and aware.  “Know thyself,” is imperative for positive mental health.

Those who become pathological have never come to this self-awareness, and act it out to varying degrees.  The most common is the overbearing taskmaster who insists on his/her way and no one seems to measure up.  As a kid they probably didn’t either.  If he/she suffers with feelings of inadequacy, that can lead to demeaning others to prove how smart and good they are.  They lack empathy, are unwilling to identify with the feelings and needs of others, show arrogant, superior attitudes and behavior.  Personality disorders cause much distress for those who must interact with them, including family.  Woe to those in their charge.  These are not very nice people.

In I Thess. 5:15 we are instructed to “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other.”  My lack of love will usually result in not being kind, simply because “love is kind” (I Cor. 13:4).  Incidentally, the word “nice” does not ever occur in most Bible translations, but the word “kind” is a nice substitute (get it?).  The best one is found in Eph. 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Not to be kind, or nice, to one another is not a Christian option.  However, I do like the I Thess. 5:15 instruction in that it sort of softens the directive with the “try to be kind.”  Really, I am trying, give me a little credit.











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