I was having my morning coffee with my mom when we first spoke about what it meant to be “nice.”
I was born in a Christian household, and we still go to church, pray, and believe with all our being. But my concept of “nice” was very much molded by my belief that “love thy neighbor” meant allowing them to step all over me because love is unconditional. As I grew up, I started learning that “love thy neighbor” did not mean “let thy neighbor perform dabke on your shoulders and make you miserable, but you need to remain silent because it’s unchristian of you to take care of yourself.”
I don’t believe God wants us to be miserable just so we can be good Christians. And so, my understanding of “love thy neighbor” turned into something else. It turned into supporting them whenever they needed it (with what was possible for me to do). It turned into not holding grudges. It turned into being honest with them if I’m annoyed by something they did and not suffering in silence (which will totally turn into resentment later on). It turned into being completely transparent with them.
I remember once that my friend insisted on coming over so I could help her with something, and I was in the most terrible state of mind. But I didn’t have the guts to tell her that I needed space that day and that I craved some time alone (which I rarely had/have). I ended up sitting with her and helping her, which created some sort of anxiety in the future whenever she told me she needed to come over.
It wasn’t my friend’s fault for sure. It was mine. Did this mean I didn’t love her? No. But at the time, it sure as hell felt like refusing her visit meant that I didn’t respect her enough or love her.
Or God forbid…that I was being selfish.
And so, during my coffee time with mom, she told me about the times in her life when she thought she was being nice but ended up inviting people to use her and her “niceness.” And eventually, she realized she turned into their doormat just to please them, not because she felt it in her heart that she wanted to help them. She was afraid of sounding or acting mean or making them sad.
But she also said something very important: “People who appreciate you and love you will understand when you need space. People who are only friends with you for your services aren’t really your friends.”
So why do we feel the need to be “nice” but end up being “doormats”?
We all want to be nice people (I think). But offering our services in a way that hurts us turns us into doormats.
According to Sharon Martin, we turn into doormats when:
>> people take advantage of our “niceness,”
>> we are not appreciated,
>> we experience burnout whenever we keep giving without getting anything in return (it could sometimes only be a simple thank you),
>> we ignore ourselves for the sake of others,
>> we feel guilty when we don’t help someone,
>> we compromise our own values to make other people happy.
I am aware that we shouldn’t do nice things to others to get something in return. But we must “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Kindness should come from the heart, not out of obligation or just to avoid feeling guilty. It should come from our willingness to do this nice act, not because we feel pressured to do it.
Because this is not called being nice anymore. This is called people-pleasing.
How am I supposed to be nice without turning into a doormat?
We are nice people, according to Kendra Cherry, when we act with kindness, avoid criticizing others, we are honest, nice to ourselves too, open-minded, polite, forgiving, and so on.
Being nice doesn’t negate having the courage to say “no” to people. At least we’d be helping them because we want to not because we have to.
We need to ask ourselves, “Do I want to help this person? Or do I feel obligated to do this ‘nice’ act?”
Being nice means being honest with others about how we feel.
Have you been honest lately? Or have you lain on the floor and let people walk all over you unapologetically?