Being Nice Doesn’t Make You A Good Person. It Makes You Weak.

Sarah Cottrell
3 min readJan 6, 2022

This morning the front walkway was slick with a thin sheet of wet ice. As I walked my three kids from the house to the car, I warned them to be careful and to try and step on the grass where there was at least some traction, but before I could get all the words out, my eight-year-old slipped and fell, ass over tea kettle.

My twelve-year-old laughed and then said, “Hey, bro, you ok?” and kept walking toward the car. I stopped him, and I said, “in some situations, words are useless. Are you going to extend a hand to your brother and take action to help him?” He looked back at his brother, who was nearly in tears at this point, and he realized that I was right. So, he turned around and helped his little brother up, even picking up his school bag and then carefully guiding him along until he could grab the car handle to hold on to.

Once we were all buckled up and ready to zip down the road and toward school, I paused and asked my kids if they knew the difference between being nice and kind. I don’t think anyone has ever asked them this question before, and honestly, I’m not sure that I had ever pointed it out. So, we did a play-by-play of what had just happened outside the car. I explained that nice was when my oldest politely asked if his bro was ok. Kind was when he acted to help.

“Do you see the difference,” I asked? “Nice is fine, but it’s weak. Kindness is action. You can be an absolute jerk with your words and attitude and still be kind. Because the point is that you do something to make someone else’s experience less painful in this world.”

They got it.

There is a vast difference between being nice and being kind. Nice is useless because it is simply a state of being pleasing or agreeable, or palatable. It’s passive. It’s safe. And yes, it has its place. After all, etiquette and manners are centered around being nice to make everyone present feel comfortable. But that is not the same as being kind.

When someone complains that they’re cold or hungry, you can listen with empathy and feel good about yourself for giving your time to let someone unload. You can smile and nod and say the right words to make it appear that you care. Or you can help that person by finding something warm or something to eat. See the difference?

A viral Twitter thread did a fantastic job of explaining the difference between nice and kind. It started when…

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Sarah Cottrell

Writer + Editor | Slow Living + Science Nerd | Rep’d by Folio Lit | Follow my stories here: https://sarahcottrell.medium.com/membership