Are You Too Nice for Your Own Good?


I always thought it was a good thing to be a nice person, and strove to be a nice person myself.

Until I read this article by Jason Henry.

Henry says that people who are are “nice” (as opposed to “good”) are people who don’t want to hurt others because they were so hurt and traumatized in the past and didn’t heal, that they make a vow (perhaps unconscious) to never make others feel the way they felt.

Perhaps those who possess the trait of high sensitivity are even more susceptible to this. I’ve often thought that HSPs were the nicest people in the world. Because we feel so deeply and take in so much, including our own suffering and that of others, we often bend over backwards to make sure we don’t cause suffering to other people.

Sounds noble, right? Even, perhaps, “Christian.” Do not do unto others as they have done unto you.

However, Henry says that when you dissect this vow for its ramifications, there are several big problems.

First of all, “nice” people aren’t honest. They say whatever will make the other person feel good, whether they mean it or believe it or not. They cannot make others feel bad because that will trigger their own negative feelings from the past.

Which means that “nice” people are actually selfish. They may give you “the shirt off their back” but their attempt to alleviate your suffering is really about preventing their being reminded of their own suffering. They’re not doing it for you, but for them.

“Nice” people actually abuse themselves. In sacrificing themselves for others to alleviate their own suffering and pain, they invite abuse from others. Sad to say, a lot of people take advantage of “nice” people. They will suck the marrow of of the nice person because the nice person doesn’t put up a fight.

Both society and many types of religion applaud “nice” people who sacrifice themselves. I remember a memorial service in which the sibling of the dead person said, “He never thought about himself.” I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s why the person died prematurely of cancer. He was highly sensitive, he was so “nice.” But what heart issues festered under that seemingly noble facade?

Nice vs. Good

The healthy contrast to “nice” is “good.”

The good person helps others, not to alleviate or prevent their own suffering, but out of a genuine desire to help.

The good person possesses the capacity to look at pain and suffering and be OK with it, whether their own or others’. They can lend a helping hand, but not at their own expense.

They do not rescue. They believe in the capacity of the other person to solve their own problems. They may point the suffering person to resources that will help. If the suffering person doesn’t follow through, they are OK with that. They don’t feel guilty about the choice the suffering person made.

Good people know that other people must be allowed the dignity of living with their own choices. They cannot easily be manipulated into overgiving.

How to Become Good

If you recognize yourself as a “nice” person, you can become “good” instead by first, facing and healing your own past.

One sign of healing is that you can allow pain and suffering to be present without feeling compelled to change things or change people. You can feel compassion without needing to fix the problem.

When you make peace with your past, you can have peace with your present. You won’t attract manipulative or abusive people, either.

Jason Henry’s article was timely for me as I have gone through a particularly difficult family situation that has brought up patterns that are dysfunctional and toxic. It shone a bright spotlight on issues I’d thought I’d healed, but in fact had buried.

I saw clearly how I’d fallen into the trap of being “nice,” and how I was being pressured to rescue certain people from their choices. I felt confused about what the “Christian” thing to do was.

After praying and consulting with mature spiritual advisers, I came to see that being “nice” would really be abetting these people in living in unreality. They wanted to continue being rescued, despite the fact that they are grown adults. The most loving thing was actually to allow them to be the adults they are, and experience the dignity of living with their own choices.

I had to face my own compulsion to be “nice,” and heal the wounds that were still there. Because of all the work I’ve already done and my willingness to grow, it actually didn’t take more than a few weeks to work through the pain of the past and come out (I think) on the other side.

Being a “good” person feels so much nicer than being a “nice” person. I feel a brand-new freedom I’d never felt before.

Try it, you’ll like it!

And if you would like some personalized help in moving from “nice” to “good” by healing the heart issues that underlie that pattern, check out my coaching at HealingCodesCoaching.com.

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