My workplace has this incredible tradition of honoring people on their work anniversaries. They do it slightly differently for each person, but essentially an anniversary at my job means that they’re going to buy you a nice, really personal gift, and most likely everyone will all get together in the same room and say kind things about you.
When you’re planning someone else’s anniversary, often we will ask everyone the same personalized-to-the-anniversary-ee question. “What do you like best about working with Ryan?” “What makes you think Derek may not actually be human?” “How has Russel helped you this year?” “What has Shyam taught you?”
My one-year anniversary was in November, and everyone answered a question about the nicest thing I have ever done for them. It was thoroughly overwhelming to sit in a room and listen to some of the people I most respect in the world talk about things I had completely forgotten that I had done that had evidently meant a lot to them.
(Also they gave me a kickass bluetooth speaker that I take everywhere with me because the sound quality is pristine and also it makes me feel loved every time I use it.)
Niceness is nice, and I am grateful that my colleagues associate me with that trait.
But then, there’s the other side of niceness. The side where you can get walked over by someone who will take advantage of it. The side where people don’t take you as seriously as they could. The side where you’re only doing it because you feel like you have to, or should. The side where your friend will yell “WOMAN UP!” at you semi-jokingly when you’re being insecure about making a decision because EVERYBODY NEEDS TO BE OKAY WITH IT IS EVERYBODY OKAY ARE YOU SURE THOUGH BECAUSE IT’S REALLY OKAY IF YOU WANT TO DO SOMETHING ELSE.
A friend pointed out something I had done out of niceness the other day that discredited me some. That caused me a little more work than it should have. He recommended I stop being quite so nice. He told me it gets in my way. It led us to a discussion about niceness and the need for it (or lack of need for it) in the world.
And the thing is I agree with him. “Nice” is never a thing I am trying to be, because I have spent a lot of time thinking about the very big difference between “nice” and “kind.”
A nice person will do something for you because they’re supposed to.
A kind person will do something for you because they care about you.
(Fun Fact: I thought “Care” was my word last year. Nope. Apparently it was 2 years ago. That’s how much I needed that word. It lasted two whole years.)
(She said absolutely it could. One of the many reasons I love that girl.)
So maybe my word this year is “Kindness.” A reminder that I can be kind without always being nice. A reminder of the loving God I serve and also of the ass I want to kick at my job and my life.
The world needs kindness. People need kindness. I want and need to be kind to others to show them who my version of Jesus is. My Jesus who meets people where they are, who loves and serves who is in front of Him no matter what. And that same Jesus who flips tables over in the temple and rebukes Pharisees because He was not here just to be nice, yo.
I can be kind without being nice. I can be empathetic without being weak. I can love without being less.
Maybe this year, I will figure out exactly how to do that.
Wouldn’t that be nice?