I know a person who is too nice.
He gives people second chances when they don’t deserve it or haven’t earned it.
He helps people with big favors if they ask and he thinks he has the capacity and time to do it.
He has enormous patience and sympathy for his wife, who suffers from undiagnosed untreated mental illness.
If I asked the people who know my father, they will describe him as the nicest most compassionate gentleman and how lucky my mother is to be his wife. A good person, the nicest man they know, they will say.
I’ve learned to see things a little differently.
My father gets ripped off or cheated more often than he should, and while he may be quick to forgive by citing his religion, we have been ripped off and cheated of a financial stability that yields stability in our lives when we were his dependents. His niceness may have caused these people to swindle others, since it is so easy to cheat and so easy to get away with it.
My father spends time doing things for other people who may or may not care that this time is at the expense of himself or his family. While he may be quick to justify how this was a onetime favor, we notice how new curries for favors pop up to occupy the empty spaces that were meant for us. His niceness may have caused these people to disrespect other people’s time and resources, since it is so easily gained for squandering.
My mother has grown so used to the reward of non-consequence for her behaviors that she spends all her time reinforcing the prison of negative thoughts that keeps her in, and it is a space few can bear to enter even for a visit. We can’t stand to have her near, lest we become lost in that prison and then we would struggle to find our way out. His niceness has caused suffering to himself, his children, and his wife, since a prison is a prison no matter how sweetly decorated.
I’ve grown up. I think I’m a nice person, but I have learned not to be “too” nice.
The more awareness I’ve grown, the less this has to do with being ripped off, or being taken advantage of… yes, these are important. Self-preservation is important. But this isn’t the only reason.
I look at the kind of behaviors I reward and reinforce, not only close to me or around me, but “out into the world” in the broad and long-term sense. I’m thinking about the futures of the families I’ll never meet, because of the behaviors I have learned to reward.