On Being “Nice”

I think people today have the wrong idea about what “nice” is. 

I cannot convince my kids that setting boundaries with other people isn’t mean.  Let me give you a hypothetical conversation to illustrate.

Daughter: We split up.  I feel bad about it because he really wants us to stay together but I just don’t love him anymore.  Now he won’t leave me alone.  He calls me all 50 times a day, he comes to my work and causes trouble and I’m about to get fired, I just don’t know what to do.

Me: It’s my opinion that any contact you have with him at this point is only encouraging him to believe that there is still a chance for the two of you.  Are you sure that there isn’t?

Daughter:  Absolutely NO chance.  I really tried.  I don’t hate him, but I just don’t love him anymore. 

Me:  I think the best thing right now would be just to tell him that you have to stop having any contact with him.  There isn’t any reason to talk to him.  If you’re done, it’s only dragging out his agony to continue.  Simply tell him its over and stop taking his calls.

Daughter:  But that’s so mean!

Me: What’s mean about telling him the truth?

Daughter: Well it sounds so harsh.

Me: It’s not harsh, it’s called honest and to the point without alot of superfluous crap added in.  Set your boundaries and stick to them.  The sooner you do that the sooner he will get it and move on.

Daughter:  It just sounds so mean to drop him like that.  I don’t want to be mean to him, I just want him to go away and leave me alone!

Me:  And you think that the way to accomplish that is to continue talking to him?  As long as you do that without setting limits, he will think that you’re doing it because there is still something left for him to say or do to get you back.

Daughter: I don’t want him back, but I don’t want to be mean to him either.

< insert the sound of me banging my head against a brick wall here>


Since when is honesty mean?  Since when is setting boundaries mean?  Since when is setting limits mean?

Why is it that people suddenly believe that they should sacrifice their own peace of mind on the alter of someone else’s hopeless dream?   That doesn’t make sense to me.  That kind of “nice” is inherently dishonest.  That kind of “nice” is meanness in its worst and most underhanded form, because it delays the inevitable and holds out false hope.  What it really is, is the refusal to stand up and take the heat for your own feelings now, by putting the other person off until they end things themselves because they feel the dishonesty and can’t tolerate it.  It’s cowardice. 


My definition of being nice is being honest even if it isn’t the most comfortable thing at the moment.  It saves hard feelings later on down the road. 

If I know what my limits are, but I refuse to tell you, then I have no room for complaint if you cross them.

So how is setting limits mean?  I just don’t get it.  What’s so “nice” about  dishonesty?


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