Remember all those big yellow smiley faces popularized back in the 70s? Well, they're starting to take effect. Congratulations! We have all become nice. We are nice about everything. We are so nice that we are at war with ourselves. We have capitulated the very principles we claim to esteem. We are toxic nice.
We are nice about our parenting. The value is placed on being our child's friend and not offending their tender sensibilities. In my own experience I have been advised that there are very cool parents in my child’s very parochial high school that actually drink and get high with their kids. Me and my Neanderthal ways of thinking! No wonder my parents and I didn’t get along so well. We weren’t bonging. This new crop of parents really have it figured out. How nice.
We are nice about education: From the Hot Air Greenroom…… I always thought that schools should focus on teaching our children subjects like reading, writing and math. Not so, evidently! That’s for fuddy-duddy, old school philistines. Nowadays, with that thing called Progress and hopeandchange ™ , our children are being taught about things like oral and anal sex and ‘fisting’. Often under the guise of abstinence programs and without the consent, or even the knowledge of, their parents…Montana is just the latest example of where this dangerous sexploitation of your children is occurring. If the prop passes, Montana kids in the fifth grade, will be taught there are several types of intercourse, and by the sixth grade, the draft document states that students should, “Understand that sexual intercourse includes but is not limited to vaginal, oral, or anal penetration; using the penis, fingers, tongue or objects.”
Real education that included the great books, the Socratic method and a sense of wonder has been downgraded to self-esteemism & how to properly wear a condom. Techniques over principles. Nice.
We are nice about our medicine. We don’t like using nasty and offensive words like abortion or euthanasia so we’ve renamed them to much nicer words like “Choice or Mercy”. This way people don’t have to feel bad if they choose to do something like kill someone. One former hospital administrator here in Arizona was so nice that she saved the life of a young mother…at the expense of her unborn child. (And the mean, cranky bishop of that nun-administrator excommunicated her for that). You can bet that the “Nice Police” were all over that story.
You know, the Brits are nice too. Back in 2008, they were so nice that they adopted sharia law. This nice little law treats women as second-class citizens, supports stoning and allows fathers to outright "own" the children of a marriage after the age of 7. This law sits juxtaposed next to their British legal code for all Muslim-British subjects and if we aren’t careful, this nice duplicity is coming to a municipality near you. Just ask Canada. This is not to mention anything at all about that nice little Mosque-ish Community Center being ginned up around near Ground Zero. That’s got “nice” written all over it. And if you don’t support it…you guessed it…Not Nice.
We’re very nice at church. We’ve tried to please everyone with an all-inclusive liturgy that promotes wide varieties of feel-good, cocktail music performances that neither elevate or inspire. We’ve made it nice for all folks to participate in parts of the liturgy that used to be reserved for the priest only. We have formed nice committees that decorate our church, not the way that it should be decorated but according to some nice person’s standards. Why? I told you already…Because it’s nice. We hate having to tell someone that they might be inappropriately dressed at mass because the “who are you to tell me how to dress” condemnation thought bubble keeps popping into your own stream of consciousness. Remember the last time you said it? Or thought it? What stopped you? Your own Nice Police. That’s who. They are in your brain.
All of this niceness can be disastrous on the digestion. I had the privilege of hearing Bishop Olmsted at a recent pro-life luncheon exhorting us not to be nice. He reminded us that the word “nice” comes from an much older word that means, “silly, foolish and nonsensical”.
Jesus talked about being “nice”. Maybe not in the same way, but he spoke about having two minds about things or being duplicitous. Being this way is the opposite of yesterday’s gospel passage of “entering through the narrow gate”. It’s much easier for me to tell you yes, than to tell you no; to try to take the easy way out than to take personal responsibility; to make up a little story about something than to be honest; to show up and make proclamations at church on Sunday and then deceive my boss at work on Monday. This, as we know, has a real spiritus vomitus feel to it.
Because we no longer believe in absolute Truth any longer, we have come to accept special versions of personal truths because it's nicer to do so and less offensive. This is relativism. It can be given the name Luke Warm and he can turn in to a real problem.
So what’s a nice person to do? (And this is a much for me as it is for you).
1. Start with yourself. Charity begins at home! Before you start rummaging around for that speck in your neighbor’s, or wife’s, or dad’s eye, you might try extracting that huge beam from your own. For how are we to really see the Truth about things, if we cannot see at all?
2. Check the integration of your Values versus your Principles. Your values are your personal special truths composed just for you. Your Principles are the harder-to-live-up-to core set of beliefs to which you aspire. Your principles are your moral compass. They get your conscience talking. Values and Principles are two different things. If I value the first commandment then I will make every human effort to attend Mass on Sunday. But if I value anything above this principle, (my pillow, the mall, my vacation plans) then when I am most vulnerable, my selfish values will win the day. If I value sobriety but I also value the fun I have while drinking, then when I am most vulnerable, my selfish values will win the day. If I value my marriage but I also value being right, then when I am most vulnerable my selfish values will win the day. The most effective people that I know match their values with their principles. This is a fun experiment…try it.
3. Scavenger Hunt for real Truth, Goodness and Beauty. I did a web search on the Doctrine of the Transcendentals and was amazed at what a dearth of knowledge there is out there on the subject. If you study the great philosophers (and the best are located here in the Church), you will find that the perfection of these principles: Truth, Goodness and Beauty is God. Truth is God’s imprint on the mind, Goodness is God’s imprint on the will and Beauty is God’s imprint on the emotions. After employing this study for a time, I guarantee you, your notions of nice-ness will change.
If you really hate the idea of not being nice, try changing your paradigm of that word to Kind. Personal example: I was walking my dog along the usual route when I happened to notice a nice lady (sheesh..there it is again!) on her morning run. Something was different about her. She had a plastic grocery bag in hand and stopped every so often to deposit litter into it that she spotted along the roadside. She was the “quicker picker upper”. When she came within earshot, I yelled out to her: “How kind of you!” And I really meant it.