Recently, my sister shared a thought-provoking tweet with me. In it, the person contrasted actions that are “nice” vs actions that are “kind”. It got me thinking, what really is the difference between being nice and being kind?
My Webster’s children’s dictionary provides the following definitions of nice – “pleasing, pleasant; kind, polite and friendly; of good quality; done very well; well behaved”. It defines kind as “wanting or liking to do good and to bring happiness to others: considerate; showing or growing out of gentleness or goodness of heart”. I understand the difference to be subtle yet significant.
Niceness involves showing sympathy while kindness involves showing empathy. According to the Cambridge dictionary, to sympathize is “to understand or care about someone’s problems” or “to show support for something; to agree with someone”. Meanwhile, it defines to empathize as “to be able to understand how someone else feels”. To empathize you have to be able to put yourself into the other person’s shoes and imagine how you would feel in that situation. Niceness is recognizing that someone has a problem; kindness is helping them to find a solution.
We are taught to be nice as children, so we know how to do that fairly well. However, I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on teaching children to be kind. Sadly, unkind children become unkind adults.
Here is a simple example of nice vs kind. When I was pregnant with my second child, we lost my mother-in-law. We told our next door neighbours and they came over and cried with us (nice) but they also brought us dinner for two days so we wouldn’t have to think about that (kind). I still remember how much that simple act meant to me.
I think in life we should all strive for kindness. The world can definitely use more of it. Let’s all seek out opportunities to show kindness to others and let’s ensure we teach it to our children. By doing this, we can raise up the next generation as one that is selfless rather than self- absorbed.