Being Nice

For many years, I was subject to depression and debilitating allergies that so enervated me, getting out of bed in the morning was about all I could handle. Then there were the years my life mate/soul mate was dying, where I hunkered down in my emotional foxhole, trying to protect myself from the pain with which life was bombarding us. During these times, whenever I’d go out among people, all I ever seemed to see were happy, healthy, and energetic folks, which made me feel as if I were alone in my misery.

It wasn’t until I signed up for Facebook and started making contact with all sorts of people that I discovered the truth rainbowin their status updates. Everyone is struggling with something — illness, disability, debility, depression, grief. Even if people aren’t struggling with such a difficulty themselves, they are taking care of someone with a problem. The strong, healthy people I saw were probably normally traumatized people on their good days.

I’m learning to be nice to everyone, even people with a bad attitude. Anger, rudeness, pettiness, are all signs of unhappiness and discontent, and chances are, the misery stems from actual problems, not just a desire to be mean. In a strange sort of way, how people treat me is not my problem. Their inconsideration is a reflection of them, not me. My only responsibility is in my own reaction, and — in an ideal world — I would always choose to be nice. Life of course, is not always ideal, and I sometimes I let my own problems dictate my behavior, especially when those problems entail a lack of sleep, such as the episodes with my afflicted brother.

One of my favorite scenes in a film is in the 1989 movie Roadhouse where Patrick Swayze is discussing his policy with the bouncers. “Be nice,” he says. He goes on to tell them that no matter what anyone does, be nice. And he ends, “I want you to be nice until it’s time to not be nice.” It’s a good policy for anyone, being nice.

Sure, we have problems, but everyone else does too. So let’s pretend this is an ideal world, and let us all be nice.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

9 Responses to “Being Nice”

  1. Paula Kaye Says:

    I have always told my grandson when it came to dealing with bullies at school,.”walk away until you can’t walk away anymore. Then stop and put those bullies in there place” I told him I would always support whatever his decision was as long as he had walked away until he couldn’t walk anymore…..

  2. Juliet Waldron Says:

    I’m hereby nominating you for sainthood, Pat! 🙂
    Too true what you say, but sometimes, when we’re down, yelling back feels awfully (momentarily) good.

  3. 22pamela Says:

    Well said…it shall be ‘today’s mantra’ on my Facebook page.

  4. Carol Wuenschell Says:

    This is just such a good approach to life. All so true, and I couldn’t agree with you more.

  5. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    I remember a time when I was in high school a bully thought he could just slap me in the face. Well, a fist came out and bloodied his nose. I was surprised as he was that the fist belonged to me.

    I remember the teachers at the time having a bad attitude. If you’re not good at math you’re rubbish. Hence no point teaching you another language or encouraging you to learn to play a musical instrument. I was great at History and English but that didn’t count. And I had an interest in art they couldn’t break.

    I developed my own bad attitude toward math. I was prepared to be unkind to anyone who showed interest in the creative side of this subject even after math experts in the USA put a man on the moon and math experts in Australia were able to relay the moon landing to my family’s television set as well as every other television set on the planet via the dish.

    A number of factors broke my bad attitude. One was discovering an understanding of perspective via late medieval Italian art. Getting distances right in a painting is math no matter how you put it. Then a niece of mine turned out to be good at math and I thought it best to encourage her rather than do the reverse. Nice kid. There was the show Numbers on television that fueled my understanding of stats, etc. Also on my own I became better at math because I had to use it in the real world.

    I suppose my early math teacher was rubbish or simply did not understand how to reach me with the subject. Regardless, to be picked on and left out of things such as learning a foreign language or music because of math tended to fuel my hatred for the subject. If I had learned to play a musical instrument I might have seen math in a better light as simply another type of language as musical scores are a type of language. I was good at English so a shot at French or German didn’t seem to me to be unreasonable.

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