It isn’t hard to be nice

“It isn’t hard to be nice”. A phrase first used by our son and one that we spoke regularly on the vacation we took a couple of months ago. Somewhere, somehow, our society has lost the ability to treat each other like human beings and simply be nice to each other. Everyone now has a label and it seems that no matter where you find yourself, someone is classifying you into a group. At its worst, “you’re either one of us or you’re one of them”. Usually that type of statement is followed up by a “at its best” statement but in this case, there is no best. Generally, we seem to have lost our compassion for each other, we lost our empathy for those in need and we’ve become focused on “I’ve got mine” or “me first!” in societies all around the world.

To our son’s point, it isn’t hard to be nice. A smile when we greet, picking up something that a stranger dropped or not treating people in the service industry like our enslaved servants, is a great place to begin. I’m pretty rebellious by nature and the last thing I want to do is to simply give way when someone is trying to push ahead in a line or a crowd – “how will they learn if people just cave-in” is what I find myself thinking. There is a difference between being nice and being a pushover. I would love to have everyone live in harmony and follow general precepts of being a member of a civilized society. Since that isn’t the case, I pray instead. The bottom line here is to ask yourself, “how do I behave?”. Examine your behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and actions; how hard is it to be nice?

16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:16-19

St. Paul is remining us to be nice to each other; pretty straightforward – “Live in harmony with one another”. Nowhere in the bible does it tell us take care of ourselves first and then worry about others. St. Paul also reminds us not to take revenge but to leave that to God, it simply isn’t our place. These words of Paul to the Romans are very instructive for our lives today. They aren’t the words or parables of Jesus that someone has interpreted to mean something, they are the God inspired words spoken through an ordinary man to ordinary people – no spin here!

We are reminded to stand up for ourselves, “If it is possible…”, live at peace. We aren’t being told to cave in or let people push us around, but we are being reminded not to take revenge against those who treat us that way. “Live in harmony, do not be conceited, do what is right, live in peace, do not take revenge”; all pretty simple ways that, in my mind, summarize how to be nice. It isn’t hard if you practice being in the moment and focus your attention outward and away from yourself. After all that I’ve read and experienced, this life is way more about others than it is ourselves.

Truth and unconditional love

Today, in the United States, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day. He wasn’t just a great American, he was a great man who spoke all over the world about love and hope. Hopefully, no matter what country you are reading this in, you know about Martin Luther King Jr. This quote came to my inbox last week and I thought that it should be shared today. He said, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Every day that goes by I seem to find it harder to simply tolerate the nonsense that I see on TV or hear about on the radio. Being in politics, I struggle to “hold my tongue” when I hear about the crazy things that state and national elected people do. As the old saying goes, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then say nothing at all”. So, I remain silent. I’m one of these weird people who often look for the middle ground on issues and work to get things done. Peace among people is where we need to start. When individual people can’t agree or get along, peace is impossible. Dr. King is suggesting that we start with truth and love – something we are lacking in this day and age. Peace opens creativity, which allows people to feel free to exchange ideas and a willingness to collaborate with each other. Go out and make peace!

Romans 12:18 – “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

The bible teaches us to live in peace with one another and love your neighbor as yourself. Living this way allows us to reflect God’s love by loving each other and it makes all of our social interactions easier too. How better for Christians to show love than by living in peace? This is the message of the verse; “as far as it depends on you”. It all depends on you; how you react to a situation or how you create a situation.

We are taught to “stick up for ourselves” and not be bullied. We’re not taught to avoid conflict simply to live at peace. Conflict can be good and healthy for relationships. We should try to find common ground, work out the differences and keep our focus on the issue not the person. If you’re having a difficult conversation, start by making it safe for everyone, stay focused on the issue and how it makes you feel rather than what you think the other person is saying. This is not a time for assumptions. By living in harmony, we live by God’s word and show others that as God so loved the world, so can we.