Sunday, March 30, 2014

Good vs. Nice

I try to be good for a lot of reasons. Self-Respect runs a close 1-2 finish with Avoiding Hypocrisy because I absolutely have to tell my kids to be good, and I expect my husband to be good. Not perfect--not even nice--but connected to other people and actively trying to help those people through life. That's what I consider loving, and I don't see any other purpose to being alive. Sure, there's other activities we do to stay employed, or housed, or healthy, or smart. Let's call them adjuncts which only have meaning in the context of loving connection to other people.

I'll state again: I don't care about nice. I don't even care that much about happy. Both are pleasant, and I like pleasant, but if you separate out all the "extras" we add onto nice and happy, they're not essential to a good life. Nice (i.e. amiably pleasant) and Happy (i.e. in a buoyantly positive mood) are easier to bear than their opposites, but I'll take someone who is gruffly and annoyingly trying to steer me away from trouble over someone else who is too nice to risk provoking me by saying they're concerned. 

adjective: nice; comparative adjective: nicer; superlative adjective: nicest
  1. 1.
    pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory.
    "we had a nice time"
    synonyms:enjoyablepleasantagreeablegoodsatisfying, gratifying, delightfulmarvelousMore
    adjective: happy; comparative adjective: happier; superlative adjective: happiest; suffix:-happy
    1. 1.
      feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.
      "Melissa came in looking happy and excited"
      ,untroubleddelighted, smiling, beaming, grinning, in good spirits, in a good mood, lightheartedpleasedcontentedcontentsatisfied,gratified,


I once had a co-worker who was neither nice nor happy give me advice. I'm not sure what her motivation was but I'll assume it was concern. I was flustered after I heard from one of my children's prior social workers that their birth mom wanted to get in touch. She claimed the child had been stolen from her at birth 15 years prior during a bout of drug-taking forced on her by a bad influence and she wanted the child back. When told that the child had been adopted at age 2, she said she didn't care, she wanted to talk to her baby and explain

Quotes by Matthew Ray on Inspirably
And I was considering it before she went underground for another fifteen years. My husband disagreed but I was willing to go to the mat with him over allowing at least a phone call because it's nice to hear that you were wanted, and missed.  I thought it might make my child happy to hear this at least once after being abandoned in the hospital. 

Listening impatiently, this co-worker said "Stop tying to be nice. Who cares if it makes anyone happy? That won't last, don't be naive." I didn't like hearing this, but she was right. Niceness is sometimes unrealistic. Happiness leads to disappointment. And protecting your child is a fierce business. I'd never hesitated to say "no" to one my kids for their own good. In this case, I had to say "no" for one of my kids, for their own good. I told them a few years later, and they sulked, but understood because I acted out of love. 

In a hypocrisy-avoiding disclaimer, I often ask my kids to be nicer to each other, but that's because I use the word to mean "kind" and they all know it. But kind is an entirely different concept. Kind is important. 

noun: kindness
  1. 1.
    the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
    synonyms:kindliness, kindheartedness, warmheartedness, affectionwarmth,gentleness,

    consideration, helpfulness, thoughtfulness, unselfishness,
    selflessness, altruismcompassionsympathyunderstanding, big-heartedness, benevolence, benignityfriendlinesshospitality,neighborliness;
    generositymagnanimity, charitableness
    "he thanked her for her kindness"

Kindness is how we best show love, both toward people we know and don't. Again, I don't mind some gruff displays of caring, but those sometimes get misunderstood. You have to know your audience. And don't forget yourself, as I was reminded in this blog: 

I tell my kids all the things I think are important to be happy in life. For one, I say "working a full-time job is the key to the house of happiness" because that's my shorthand for being independent. For another, I say "meeting in the middle is the the path to the happy place" because that child is uncompromising. But again, I don't really mean happy. I mean content, which doesn't have the same attraction to them but it's all I care about. Or more specifically, fulfilled. 

  1. 1.
    satisfied or happy because of fully developing one's abilities or character.
    sereneplacid,untroubled, at ease, at peace
    "the new job has me feeling fulfilled"

What more would you want for your kids than this?  To make a good life for themselves and be satisfied. 

In my experience, the only way to be fulfilled, to fully develop your abilities and character is to love wholeheartedly, and at great effort and cost. If I exercised with half the passion I try to love, I'd have torn muscles and road burn from falling to my knees. 

When you are born to or create or find people worthy of your love, how could there ever be a time you say "that's plenty?"

Even if they never know all you do for them. Even if it's only between you and God. 

This is why I'd say I'm good for me, because I need to love as fiercely as I can in order to feel worthy of love in return. And I'm good for people I care about--even if I know them peripherally or briefly--because they deserve no less. 

Especially the man who loves me best of all, and loves it when I post my blogs on time. 
Happy Birthday, Mark xxoo

Love, Lisa

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