I spoke at a small school in Texas a few years ago. The topic was Kindness. At the end, a swaggering senior boy walked up to me. “Hey man, I realized today I’m a really nice person.”
I thought he was messing with me. I was wrong.
“The way you talked about things today,” he said, “I realized that I’m nice, but I don’t think I’m kind. Most of my school says they’re kind, but they’re actually just nice. They’re helpful when it’s convenient. They’ll show up for someone if they like ‘em or agree with them already. They’ll pick up someone’s dropped…but only if they think they’re cute. Nice is reactive, yeah know?”
I encouraged him to keep going. He was on a roll.
“Nice is reactive, but the way you talked about kindness today…I realized it has to be proactive. I have to practice it even when it’s messy and uncomfortable. When it’s inconvenient. When there is nothing in it for me. I realized that kindness requires a lot of work. And I realized that I have a lot of work to do.”
He was crying by the end. He hugged me and left out the double doors.
Kindness is harder than it looks. To improve at it is expensive—and the biggest costs are convenience and comfort. Nice steps back, while Kindness steps up. Nice happens when there is time; Kindness happens because we make time. Nice expects something in return, while Kindness is free from expectation.
To put it simply: nice people don’t change the world, but Kind people can.
When we change the way we think about something, it changes the way we act with it. Kind > Nice.
As my friend in Texas might say: we’ve got a lot of work to do.