The Difference Between Nice and Good

My daughters are sweethearts. They are both thoughtful and kind to others. I am so proud of them.  One of the things I’ve tried to teach them is to be nice to others. A motto I say to them is “You don’t have to like everyone but you need to respect everyone.”  I truly believe in this motto, but I started wondering if it needed more clarification.

Both daughters have had trouble with difficult “friends.”  Both girls continued to deal with these “friend’s” behaviors without doing anything back. That’s what we’ve been taught, right? Turn the other cheek?  Well I think there needs to be a balance between “being nice” and “being a good person.”

To be nice to others seems to be at times a  pleasing behavior.  My girls didn’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings (even though other kids were hurting theirs).  Somehow being nice meant –to my kids –that other people were first.  Is that really what I wanted to teach them? That the other persons feelings were more important that theirs? That they had to be “nice girls” no matter what?  No, I want them to believe that while it’s important to respect others, it’s also important to respect themselves.

A nice person will act a certain way in order to not hurt someone’s feelings or make them uncomfortable.  As a result, sometimes “nice people” can be fake because they are more concerned with appearances than the truth.  Additionally, sometimes people who “act” nice don’t always even have  good intentions.  So being “nice” maybe isn’t always so nice.

Now, being a good person means to me that your intentions are good.  You look for and act toward the greater good. Your intentions are to not only help yourself but also others in the process.   However, sometimes being good also means doing what is not popular.  Sometimes doing what is right is unsettling and upsetting to others. Hence, sometimes being good you can’t be “nice” and please everyone.

Sometimes you need to say “No” and sometimes you even need to raise your voice.  When my one daughter’s “friend” would cry when she didn’t get what she wanted, my daughter would give in and do what her friend wanted.  It seemed to me that my daughter was being emotionally blackmailed. My daughter just thought that letting her friend cry wasn’t nice.

I still want my girls to be nice, but not at the expense of doing what’s right.  We certainly should try doing and being good in a respectful way. However, I clarified with them that  our first priority should be to be good (do what’s right- including, at times, standing up for themselves) and our secondary goal should be to be nice (act in order to please others and not hurt their feelings).

So how about we say…It’s nice to be good and good to be nice, but sometimes being nice is not good and sometimes being good you need to not be nice.

Utimately I hope my girls learn that we can’t always gage what we should do by how we think others will respond.  We need to listen to our internal compass and be true to ourselves. That being said, I realize that no matter what I do I can’t always protect them from some things in this world. I  can guide them, but sometimes they need to explore the path on their own. Sometimes that means getting hurt.  Hopefully they will learn from each experience and grow from it.

What do you think? Do you think there is a difference between being good and being nice?

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About Maureen Umehara

I’m a mom, wife and Expressive Therapist who enjoys being creative through art and writing. I also love having insightful and inspired discussions and building community. Looking forward to hearing about you! Learn more about me here.