being nice vs. being good

Good vs. Nice: Which Are You? Hint, The Difference Matters!

What’s the difference between being good and being nice? Do you know? As it turns out, the good vs. nice debate matters. 

For example, I’m glad November is here. October was a good month for our family, but it was not a nice month by any means. The contrast between good and nice is greater than most people realize.

In an ideal world, good decisions and nice decisions would always work together, hand-in-hand. But our world is messy. More often than I would like, I find myself having to choose between the two.

 Good Versus Nice—What’s the Difference between the two?

Let’s begin our conversation by examining what it means to be nice. Nice decisions feel warm and fuzzy. Nice men and women are peacekeepers. They don’t ruffle feathers and refrain from rocking the boat. On a personal note, I enjoy spending time with nice people, and I would like to be known as a nice guy.

On the other hand, good decisions are made by focusing on what is best. Good, looks at the big picture and acts with wisdom. being good takes into account:

  • The feelings of others.
  • Morals and values.
  • And the long-term impact of the decision.

Good men and women strive to make wise choices even when this upset others. On the other hand, nice people chose not to rock the boat.

Good, looks at the big picture and acts with wisdom. Click To Tweet

Good Versus Nice in Real Life

Halloween provides an excellent illustration of the good vs. nice debate. Most parents can relate. Nice parents choose not to rock the boat with rules and limits. They put their children entirely in charge of how much candy they will eat—This is the easy way out! Now, contrast this with good parenting, which uses sound judgment to put a structure in place.

The Problem with Nice

In his book, No More Mr. Nice Guy, Dr. Robert Glover, does an excellent job of getting to the root issue of the problem with only being nice. Nice people operate out of a worldview that believes,

If I can hide my flaws and become what I think others want me to be then I will be loved, get my needs met, and have a problem-free life.

Although this book is written specifically for men, I suppose the same could be said of women. One problem with being nice is that nice people are more concerned with keeping warm, fuzzy appearances than in doing what is wise. The flawed worldview says, “If I’m nice enough, life will go smoothly.” Yet, the Bible teaches that the sun and the rain come on the just and the unjust alike. No matter how nice we are, life on earth will never be problem-free. The bottom line is: The nice solution is not always best.

good versus nice
The bottom line is: The nice solution is not always the best solution. Click To Tweet

Why Being Good is so Hard

In, No More Christian Nice Guy: When Being Nice—Instead of Good—Hurts Men, Women, and Children, author Paul Coughlin, illustrates how Jesus put being good, ahead of being nice.

Jesus used intense language. He was sarcastic and even exaggerated at times, to prove His point. Before you say, “Wait a minute Jed. Jesus was far too nice for that,” take a look at Mark 9:31. This passage describes an occasion where Jesus’ own disciples “didn’t understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it.” If Jesus were simply a “nice guy,” the disciples would have had no difficulty asking Jesus what he meant. Had Jesus taken nice to an extreme, the disciples wouldn’t have had questions. After all, nice guys don’t say things that bother others.

Now, add this to the list of Jesus:

And it’s easy to see that while Jesus was always good, He was not always nice. Paul Coughlin states,

If we can’t bring ourselves to face the possibility of offending someone, we’ll never be able to consistently speak the truth.

begin good, versus being nice

The Integration of Good and Nice

Fortunately, nice and good are not polar opposites. On many occasions, the two are easily integrated:

  • Greeting one’s spouse with a kiss.
  • Playing with our children in the park.
  • Reading a bedtime story.
  • Faithfully going to work each day.

These are simple actions that are both good and nice.  Nevertheless, problems arise when life gets messy:

  • The nuances of blended-family life.
  • Times where a loved one struggles with mental health concerns, anger issues, or addictions.
  • And challenges that arise when teaching our children positive values.

These bumps in the road, cause good and nice to clash.

When Good and Nice Collide

[Tweet “When good and nice are at odds, the challenge is to put doing what is good, ahead of being nice. “] If you are anything like me, you’ll be tempted to take a nice way out. Upsetting others is never enjoyable. Nevertheless, sometimes boundaries need to be put in place.

Good parents say “no,” and “wait.” They have a structure for appropriate discipline for miss-behavior in the home.

Good husbands and wives address issues as they arise. They don’t allow tensions to build and problems to go unaddressed, with a peaceful, “nice,” smile on their face. Instead, good couples talk about everything. This includes finances, minor irritations, and their appreciation of the little things that keep their love strong.

Good employees do the right thing, even when it is a hard thing. In Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldredge writes, “We discover a Jesus who is in fact frequently embroiled in conflict—mot of which he provokes himself (like healing on the Sabbath).” While a nice guy will cower from conflict, good guys are not afraid to rock the boat. After all, some boats need to be rocked! 

While a nice guy will cower from conflict, good guys are not afraid to rock the boat. After all, some boats need to be rocked! While a nice guy will cower from conflict, good guys are not afraid to rock the boat. After all, some boats need to be rocked!  Click To Tweet

Why a Post on Good Versus Nice?

So, why write a post contrasting good decisions with nice decisions? The answer is easy. This post is as much for me as anyone reading it. This week, I found myself picking up old books, reading through the portions that I highlighted long ago, and reminding myself: [Tweet “It is perfectly OK to make a good decision, even when others don’t understand.”]

I figure that if I’m wrestling with making good decisions, others are struggling with this too. Today, my question for you is; Where are you and your family at? Are you in that wonderful place of maintaining the balance between being good and being nice? Are you operating from a place of making nice decisions, that don’t operate out of sound wisdom? Or, are you where my family and I found ourselves this month? Are you making the difficult decision to make good choices, even if some people get upset in the process?

Good vs Nice: Which are you

Diving Deeper into Good vs. Nice

P.S. The Entitlement Cure: Finding Success in Doing Hard Things the Right Way, by John Townsend, is a book I’m currently enjoying. It’s all about laying aside what’s easy, warm, fuzzy, and “nice” to take up good things. It’s another excellent resource for anyone looking to dive deeper into the topic of good versus nice.

Good men are kind men, and after you read this article, I think you’ll agree. The good news is that being nice and being a jerk are not the only two options. Our world needs good, courageous, strong men and women like never before. And you and I can step up and fill this need!

So which are you, kind or nice? As you can see, the difference matters. Making the transition from nice to good isn’t always easy. And if you’d like to dive deeper, I’m here to help. You can schedule a free coaching call here, and we’ll dive in together!

Continuing the Conversation

What would you add to these thoughts? Has there been a time where you stood up for what was good, even when it didn’t feel nice? What would you add to this conversation? I’d love to hear your thoughts on being good vs. being nice. Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments below!

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Jed Jurchenko

Jed Jurchenko is the husband to an incredible wife, daddy to four amazing girls, and a foster dad to one more. He's served as a children's pastor, marriage and family therapist, psychology professor, award-winning writing coach, and life coach. Jed is the author of 23 books on relationships, parenting, writing, and doing life well. In his free time, you'll find Jed reading, preparing for an upcoming marathon, barbecuing, paddle boarding, and enjoying life with his incredible family. Find out more about Jed's books, coaching, and courses at www.ithrive320.com.

11 thoughts on “Good vs. Nice: Which Are You? Hint, The Difference Matters!”

  1. Jed,

    Thanks for the insightful post. This has given me something to think about for sure.

    I’m a person who doesn’t love conflict and so it is easier sometimes to choose nice over good. I may have to work on that though. As you pointed out, Jesus was full of love, but sometimes he had to use strong language and even righteous anger to make his point.

    Thank you for giving me something to ponder today!

    Jesse

    1. Hey Jesse,

      Thanks for dropping by and for taking the time to comment. Yep, we’ve definitely have a disinterest in conflict, in common. My wife teases me about this quite often. It’s nice to know that others are growing in this area with me.

      You have a great looking site! I love your creativity with the Get Noticed theme. How long have you been blogging?

  2. Hey Jed,

    I can relate. I have a unhealthy tendency to avoid necessary conflict that I’ve been working on for many years. I didn’t learn how to handle conflict well when a I was younger. Conflict triggered anxiety and anger that I didn’t have good skills for managing. My inability to deal with my emotions in conflict caused problems in my marriage. So, I became nice to avoid arguments. Not good!

    One consequence of my being nice was that I deferred all decision making to my wife. As an only child, she handled that responsibility well, but it made our relationship one sided.

    My niceness also caused problems for me as a manager at work. I allowed operational problems to continue when I feared that exposing the problem would create conflict with other managers.

    I’ve had to learn to step up and stick my neck out, and express my opinion and raise concerns at home and work. It wasn’t easy. It’s gotten easier. It meant I had to learn some effective communication skills and how to manage my anxiety and anger when conflict stirs them up.

    1. Such great examples Jon! Thank you for sharing these. Knowing when to confront problems at work head-on, and when to let things go, is certainly a balancing act that requires discernment. My initial instinct is to want to avoid as well, and I’m also in the process of growing in this area : )

      Thanks for the great addition!

  3. Often, being nice in the moment actually isn’t even so nice in the long haul (nor good). Statistics still show that the children of permissive parents grow up expressing that they felt less loved than even authoritarian (i.e., overly strict or even unreasonable) parents. Likewise, saying “yes” to requests from others just to be nice in the moment, when you haven’t taken time to consider whether you can really commit or come through in the end, often leaves you bailing or failing in the final stretch; this leaves the person you were being “nice” to stuck in a bad circumstance, whereas if you’d said “no,” they could have asked someone else earlier. These are just two of countless situations that illustrate that, many times, being “nice” in the moment … isn’t as nice as you think.

  4. This is a tough one for me. When it comes to my kids, it’s easy for me to choose good over nice. I was raised with “good” always outweighing “nice” and I believe that carries over into my view of parenting.

    My real problem is that I can’t always discern the difference between good and nice on the job. I have a hard time saying “No” and given the choice of calling it like it is or being quite, I’ll stay silent. Eventually, I speak, but I feel like it’s always much later than it should be.

    One of the ways I’m trying to grow is in the area of work/life balance where I can choose good in both sides of my life. I don’t want to treat my kids with one standard and the other people of my life with another.

    1. Hey, Joseph. I have a thought for you, which is that I think it’s perfectly fine and “good” to treat your kids with a different standard from the rest of society. (Do you give your wife preferential and special treatment as opposed to other women? I hope so!)

      It comes down to the stakes. With your kids, the stakes and your role in them matter greatly. With work or others “out there,” you have to assess each situation as to whether investing extra energy into “good” is warranted over being “nice” (and, let’s face it, often what we perceive as “good” is just our one opinion or preference among many others). If you’re invited to speak into something and your input is valued, speak. If it’s an energy drain over something for which you aren’t responsible in the end … choose nice over good (or, in most case, what boils down to merely “wanting to be right”).

      In all circumstances, I ask myself, “Will this matter in a year?” If the outcome one way or another won’t significantly matter in a year, and there is evidence that your input toward “good” is not entirely welcome, it’s perfectly find to choose being nice.

      You’ll find that your answer to many things with your kids to the “Will this matter in a year?” question is YES, because you are helping them form character, critical thinking skills, etc. But sometimes, even with your kids, the answer to that question will be an evident “No, it won’t matter in a year.” These are times for being “nice” (e.g., showing mercy) over being “good” (didactic, etc.).

      Just one more guy’s opinion here.

    2. Hey Joseph,

      That’s such a great point. This good vs. nice discussion, can be tricky when it comes to work. It definitely adds in some unique nuances.

      I like Erik’s strategy of focusing on the important issues, by asking “will this matter in a year.” At work, if there is something that I’m especially passionate about, I might ask my supervisor if I can provide feedback privately. I’ll give my personal opinion, then affirm that I’m willing to support the decision that is made. I feel like this has the balance of taking a stand for good, while supporting those in charge–which is also a good think to do 🙂

      There is definitely not a quick and easy answer, and this is something that I continue to wrestle with too. Thanks for joining in the conversation and for helping me sharpen my own thinking.

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