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For some, "nice" is another "n" word

July 21, 2013

I'm more than willing to accept the fact that my hipness factor is non-existent and I fly below the radar of popular culture. I do not really know how to turn on my TV and the fact that I can stream from Netflix to my laptop does not redeem me.

So maybe I have missed the e-alert that says rudeness is the new form of social discourse with absolute strangers you will never, ever even meet at a cocktail party.

Some background: I got connected, without my consent or knowledge, to a national group of Lutheran clergy who post questions and subsequent threads on Facebook. For the most part I find it interesting, even helpful--there have been a couple of times when I have posted questions and gotten a stream of thoughtful, useful responses.

But lately I've noticed a tendency for some people to--let me put it sensitively--become querulous. Let me put it not so sensitively: they become snotty, bratty, cutting and rude.

Responding to one thread questioning whether or not it was good practice to wear a clerical shirt and collar when on a family outing, I became incredulous at the charges volleyed across FB gunwales. This person was being "snarky," that person was being "bombastic." And sheesh, this is all about some bloody collar?

So I posted, "Everybody, play nice. I don't see what's to get upset about."

And apart from the fact that I ended my sentence in a preposition, I still don't. Though clearly I was wrong.

One person responded by saying that "'playing nice' is born of angst: anxiety, fear, dread and shame are at the root of playing nice, because playing nice is the sharade [sic] called avoidance."Another said that niceness implies superficiality, falseness and pretending--the latter two being the same thing, yes? But not necessarily nice....Yet another poster quoted Beyond Nice by Patricia Davis: "niceness is the opposite of spirituality" (for which another yet poster responded with "Amen to that"). Some pro-and-anti "nice" banter ensued during which I was silent because....because, really?

When I finally did respond to say that I didn't think we needed to check our senses of humor at the door and that I also didn't like having my spirituality judged by someone who knows absolutely nothing about me, I was met with--well, I hate to say it--a snarky asssessment of my motivation in writing and the further declaration by this clergyperson that she feels no need to be nice in this forum.

Well, let me just say right here and now that my late, flamboyant, rule-flouting, beautiful red-headed mother would not cotton to anyone saying that they ever had a right to feel they didn't need to be nice. At any time. That is, unless you were being seriously insulted. "You catch more flies with honey," she always used to say. And, simple girl that I am, I think she was right.

But maybe I'm out of touch. Maybe it's become chic to be snarky if you believe you're right. Maybe it's cool to be rude. Who knows? I never really know what's trending now, apart from the Kardashians, who are always, unfortunately, trending now.

And yet I do wonder how rude and snarky will fare in growing congregations....

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I'm a writer, yoga teacher, Lutheran pastor, and music nerd living in New York. I find a feast in daily living - most days, anyway - and write about it here. 

Finalist for the 2017 Chautauqua Prize!
The frank and funny story of a church-geek girl who spent twenty years in the ecclesiastical trenches as a Lutheran pastor, preaching weekly words of hope she wasn’t sure she even believed.