I think the quality of niceness is vastly underrated now. People want to be seen as being empowered, strong, assertive even aggressive, independent, self-reliant, pushing through their own agenda, any or all of those, and want to be admired by the rest of us who, in their eyes are weak and unable to stand up for their rights. But all these are euphemisms for self-centeredness and a defense of the indefensible.
Does being strong and assertive stop a person from being polite or courteous? A truly mature individual knows how to lead their own lives without trampling upon others. The true test of a gentleman as they say is to see whether he treats his servants the same way that he treats his peers. Someone who knows how to be polite to his boss or his friends should be capable of treating spouse and family with the same courtesy. In fact they deserve more courtesy because they are there for the long haul and have to put up with a lot more bad behavior from one.
Some of the problem lies in the fact that adolescence, in the present times, continues into the late twenties according to social scientists. Where we, the baby boomers were told to take care of ourselves and our new families by the age of twenty-five, today that figure – so they say – represents a mere child who is thus licensed to throw tantrums with the (real) adults standing around trying to shush the immature one with toys and apologies that need to be made not by them really. Anything to buy peace. At what age are they old enough then to be answerable for their actions?
It is very easy to complain of other people’s sense of entitlement and impossible to see one’s own. In my list, intelligence, smartness, money and success all rate far below a generous heart and compassion.
No one has to be nice to anyone of course. But what do they have to lose? Building up goodwill is much more difficult than throwing it away. Apropos of nothing, the most horrifying and despairing part of the book Gone With The Wind – which I read as a teenager – was when Rhett Butler walks away from Scarlett O’Hara with his famous last words, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” to her question “Where shall I go?”.
Looking back at one’s own life it is amazing that we grew up to be perfectly nice people with no help or guidance. I am thankful for everything I have got and I suspect I don’t deserve much of the good that came my way. I will never apologize for my life anymore. I know I can be proud of myself even if I never had a career or a wonderful education and never earned any money. I am only a nice person who thinks of making other people happy. Maybe that is too little, but not in my eyes.
Give me a sweet-tempered goodhearted person any day. I couldn’t care less about their IQ.