Monday, July 29, 2013

Overrated and Underrated: A Meditation

A few months ago I was reflecting on the difference between niceness and kindness, in the context of human conversation and interaction. To me, being nice means using certain words or tone in an attempt to smooth over differences. It means saying things that you think another person wants to hear.

Being kind, on the other hand, means remaining true to yourself while holding empathy for the other person. It means not only speaking, but active listening. It means bringing your whole self to a conversation, including your anger. Niceness doesn't require relationship--in fact it discourages it. Kindness seeks relationship and understanding. Niceness isn't that difficult; in fact it can be a cover for manipulative or passive-aggressive behavior. Kindness is costly because it requires authenticity, vulnerability, and true connection with others. It risks rejection.

Niceness is overrated in our culture, while kindness is (scandalously) underrated. I started thinking about other words and concepts that American and/or Christian culture--especially those of us who are privileged--either value highly or undervalue. The list below is a result of meditating on these concepts.

Keep in mind that I do not believe that everything I list as "overrated" is necessarily bad or unhealthy; some are merely over-valued in comparison with what I list as underrated.

Overrated Underrated
Niceness Kindness
Certainty Mystery
Expertise Intellectual Humility
Arrogance Pride
Relevance Authenticity
Criminal Justice Social Justice
Explaining Listening
Conventional Wisdom Instinct
Atheism/Theism Humanism
Shame Guilt
Having Good Intentions Assuming Good Intentions
Modesty Rules Healthy Sexuality
Freud* Jung
Playing the Martyr Practicing Meekness
Fixing Empathizing
Destination Journey
Notoriety Obscurity
Stability Change
The Bible The Holy Spirit
Truth Love

* With apologies to Amy Hollingsworth!

What do YOU think? Do these comparisons resonate with you? Are there any with which you disagree? What would you add or remove from this list? Thanks for reading!

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