I recall a First Friday Mass in one of the North Manila Chapters officiated by Fr. Orbos. During the homily, he posed this question to the members of that Chapter: “Are you good?” The answer was a resounding and confident “Yes!” Fr. Orbos then followed up his question with another one: “But are you nice?” The response was not a convincing “Yes”. The point he was driving at was the difference or, more aptly, the nuances between being good and being nice.
Most if not all of us responded with a yes to the question “Are you good” because we equated being good with the effort we exert to being a good Christian. We presumed that as members of the BCBP we have already undergone the process of conversion and transformation, and we therefore have been able to overcome serious sin in our lives. We are therefore a good Christian because we follow the ten commandments. More than that, however, we have even learned and put into practice acts that emulate Christ in our daily life by loving God and neighbor, by being more virtuous, by trying to be more “perfect and holy”.
But being good, as Fr. Orbos explained, does not necessarily mean one is automatically “nice”. One can go to Mass everyday and be pious but still remain a not so nice person. He or she can be helpful to others but may remain “masungit” and grouchy. We can be a good Christian but continue to whine and whimper over many things, petty or otherwise, which are beyond our control. We do get grumpy from time to time and it is really a challenge to be nice especially during those times when our biorhythm is at a low point.
Before BCBP, my wife has many times criticized me for not being nice to her, for my being nicer to my friends than to her. I have since pleaded guilty to the charge and these days I try to be nicer to her. I became more aware that being nice is the added dimension of being good. It is not enough to be good Christians but we also have to be nicer Christians. It is a challenge because sometimes we succeed and at other times the old grouchy self reappears.
Nice-ness is a multifaceted quality and habit. Everybody will have their version of what being nice means in their particular situation. A short word with big implications.
It can mean being pleasant and agreeable as opposed to being gruff and peremptory. How many times have we been guilty of being “surly” or masungit? Have you been in a situation when after a long flight, you check into a hotel and were told you had no reservations. Will you throw a tantrum and lambast the girl manning the check-in counter (who was not even responsible for causing the mess in your bookings in the first place)? Or will you choose perhaps to be forgiving and nice by allowing the hotel staff to sort out the problem and wait patiently? I know of someone who got angry and punched a waiter simply because there was less chicken in his chicken arroz caldo than those served to his golf mates. It was not even the waiter who was responsible for the arroz caldo and he was simply serving it. As a result of his violent outburst, he got himself expelled from the Club. Yes, not being nice can have devastating consequences!
Being nice also means being cool. When caught in traffic, for example, you don’t have to curse the driver who cut you off. Give the other driver the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, just maybe, he didn’t see you or he just made a mistake. Or even assuming the driver is a jerk, be nice to yourself and avoid being angry and cause yourself useless aggravations. Being nice is just letting it go and not ruining your day by an unkind act of another person. Even better and nicer, just pray for that driver that he will not cause any harm to other drivers.
Being nice also means being kind and going out of your way to help others in need especially if it is inconvenient at times. I remember one instance when after attending a wake of a BCBP member, my wife and I were called by a couple experiencing serious marital troubles and requested us to pass by their place and help them. The only problem was it was already 12 midnight. We did pass by their house and stayed up to 2:30 am just listening to their problems. In retrospect, i think that gesture was nice and proved helpful to them.
Being nice is to be generous. As a family, we have developed the habit of giving gratuities or tips to people who serve us. In addition to the service charge that restaurants normally tack on to the bill, we make it a point to add to it because we appreciate good service. Besides, waiters and waitresses do not really enjoy a high salary and any tip provided will go a long way in meeting their needs. Isn’t it a wonderful way to share one’s blessings with others?
Being nice can also mean being friendly, tactful and gracious in speech as opposed to being obnoxious, abrasive, critical and argumentative. Who wants to be around people who always argue, are negative, or do not have a shred of good thing to say about events and people. There are those who make it a profession to speak out of turn and bother others with issues that are clearly none of their business, to voice out empty opinions and criticize those not present to defend themselves. On the other hand, how nice it is to listen to people who have mastered the art of gracious speech, soothing and tender, pleasing and sympathetic, kind and friendly. Such a person, St. Paul said, edifies and builds up, empowers and ministers grace to listeners.
There are many ways of being nice and each one in his particular circumstance can do acts that are nice besides being good in themselves. It is very important that the habit of being nice should start in the family, to your wife and children. In my own particular case, my wife appreciates my speaking gently, looking at her when she talks, being attentive to her needs. The mere act of opening the door for her is a big deposit to my emotional bank account with her. She likes it when I call and advise her that I will be late for dinner or simply to inform her my whereabouts. She appreciates it when I accompany her to a movie that she likes to see. Sometimes, I even carry her handbag for her because it has become too heavy for her to carry. There are endless ways to be nice. The important thing is to start the culture of being nice especially in the family and one will see the fruit of nice-ness blossom in due season.
Nice people attract. How true the saying is “Be a friend to gain a friend”. Let us make the world a better place by being a little nicer every day. What about you, how can you be more nice to those around you?