• Shawn Hosford

To be Nice or To Be Kind

In a supportive and full conversation with one of my favorite neighbors recently I found new clarity on a slice of life that I’ve been missing. Then, in conversations with my mother-in-law and our Gardening Angel I was reminded of another missing piece.

Dialogue often helps me to trace the roots of my pain. This particular conversation with my neighbor gifted me with an aha moment. The aha! was a realization that many in my community place a lower value on honesty, authenticity, and integrity than I do. It seems that their niceness stands in the way of living more fully with these traits. “Save the niceness,” my stepfather would have said, combining these three traits to become character — he was big on what was involved in the making of someone’s character.

These recent conversations connected beautifully. They helped me delineate between being nice and being kind. I reached a sucrose versus fructose conclusion. There is a sweet flavor to both types of sugars and traits, but one comes from a largely manmade and controlled environment and one from the organic messiness of life. Dirt is more essential to me. When asked if I prefer artificial strawberry flavored lollipops or a pint of farm fresh strawberries there would be no contest. One feels much better in my body, nourishing for my body, and connected to a larger body.

I think our country is in the shape it is because too many are doing their damnedest to be nice — to become the lollipop all wrapped up and artificial. We prioritize sucrose and niceness. This allows us to drift so far from the messiness of our own originality and kindness. We then have to struggle to recenter. With a live and let live practice we avoid undertaking the messy work of being together — togetherness is in the combination of our lives. It is in this messiness that authenticity, honesty, and integrity become necessary.

At one point in our recent conversation, my neighbor noted that my heart seemed heavy these days. I admitted that it has been. Part of that heaviness comes from an increasingly rushed and under-spirited city life. Nice is often so much more efficient than is kind in the short term. Too many of my interactions on a current personal project, as an activist in Seattle, and on a smaller scale in my neighborhood lack honesty, authenticity, and integrity.

My neighbor continued to note how important it is for him to stay out of those type of rabbit holes of heaviness. I understand it is much simpler to stay away from heavy subjects, without wrestling with the weight of the world. However, I find it imperative to explore and look into every crevice possible. Within that exploration I hold hope we find and solve what ails us rather than enabling broken systems to continue failing us.

Yes, life would be easier and more peaceful if I didn't explore our shadow sides. However, I believe a false sense of peace and a complicit endorsement of our violent structures and systems will not keep our species alive. It’s no more nice for me.

These aha moments about where, how, and with whom I prefer to circle our truths was such a great epiphany. I hope for a day when people will own their actions with honesty, authenticity, integrity, and kindness. I would prefer a world where this kind of behavior was considered nice rather than that of a faux smile covering the real work of life’s journey.

Are you having honest conversations? Are you being your most authentic self without the trappings of our current society? Do you have integrity in your interactions and conversations? If not, why not? Do you want to change?