Nice matters (I think)


Terry and I have some knickknacks around the house.

Well, that’s not true. In the strictest reading, yes, knickknacks. But an overall household tour would reveal that many of them are absolute treasures for us. Memories of travels. Mementos of growing children. Irreplaceable.

Still… a good portion… sure, knickknacks.

There are a few of those wooden signs just about all of us have seen. Little phrases which were pretty much all purchased because of an inside joke of personal significance.

We have one in the kitchen that says this: “Because Nice Matters”.

I kicked and screamed and pitched a tantrum about buying it, never mind my reaction to the request for hanging it. (Maybe not a tantrum, but I was definitely making fun of it.)

At the time Terry was picking it out, it most certainly did not seem like nice mattered.

Checking out work for examples, nice didn’t matter professionally at the time. A place where all of the selfish jerks that behaved miserably seemed to be the ones getting their way. I was nice. I put in the extra effort. I smiled and shoveled all the manure that headed downhill. And… nice did not matter.

Over time though, I’ve grown to appreciate that sign. Not because I’ve won the lottery or come across some magical way where tangible and measurable successes could be attributed to being nice.


Because character matters. And nice is a part of that.

Recently I’ve been digging around the archives of my writing. Pulling out old notes and unfinished drafts of things. Looking over materials stored in folders and saved in computer files. I came across one called “Would Jesus…” that I wrote about twelve years ago.

The original essay was written when I stumbled across a couple of those stories and comments and observations we get treated to every so often. It began by wondering if Jesus would head out to the movies. It continued by wondering about Jesus and his potential support as a consumer of specific retail outlets. And I went a bit nutty.

My reaction was essentially to design a list out of current headlines and news articles, attempting to show that the Jesus I’m aware of wasn’t—and, sure, isn’t—a disparaging jerk. More to the specifics, while I may not be the most religious of people, if asked to outline his character I would head toward words like kind, caring and compassionate. In essence, Jesus would agree that nice absolutely does matter.

I think the problem in all of this is our own individual, personal expectations. We expect dessert after eating all of our vegetables… we expect praise for our accomplishments… we expect a reward for being nice.

And… yeah… and, it doesn’t work that way.

Nice is not a currency. It’s not something that can be exchanged for winning lottery tickets.

Rewriting the essay about Jesus and trying to update it with some outrageous news and thoughts was difficult. The end result isn’t perfect, by any measure. But, it made me see something that has been swirling around within my thoughts over the years.

I have always tried to be nice. I’d like to think I’m seldom selfish. I’d like to think I’m thought of as someone with good character. None of that can be measured by the car I drive.

It’s shown in the love I have for family and friends. It’s shown in the strength of my relationship with my wife. It’s shown in two great boys that I was around to watch grow (and maybe, just maybe, had a small role in guiding as they did).

Nice matters. (But you’re going to need to figure out how and why it matters on your own.)

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at