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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Nice Fighters

Urijah Faber

Can you succeed by being nice in a "dog-eat-dog" world? Do you have to be violent to be safe? Explain. (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, p.519).

This question requires that two things be explored – first, what it meant by "nice", and, second, the nature of the world. To what extent is the world “dog-eat-dog?”

I think one reason that we like war movies is that war in many ways is allegorical for life. I would like to raise my son to be nice. That is, I want him to learn consideration, empathy, and compassion. But, nevertheless, I would not fully restrict him from watching war movies. This is because in my view it is well to see displayed raw courage in battle. Learning to fight begins with oneself. When tempted to be lax in self-discipline, we need to fight this tendency towards shiftlessness and spinelessness. When we encounter the inevitable difficulties involved in daily living, we need to be ardent fighters to overcome adversity. So, being a fighter begins with oneself. But it doesn't end there. I like to think as a teen my son would have the stamina to resist the pressures of conformity that run counter to good judgment. A "nice" person—when that means never risking the disapproval of others or ruffling the feathers of friends—is a path that will sooner or later lead to disaster. So in addition to fighting unattractive inner traits, we also must learn to resist unwise influence and conformity. In short, a nice person as I have defined it (considerate, empathetic, and compassionate) nevertheless must be a fighter—not excluding the possibility that they must sometimes offend and occasionally flat-out arouse disgust in their companions. Being nice in these circumstances entails putting the best interest of yourself and of your contrary friends ahead of conformism and phony congeniality. It calls for strength and the will to fight.

The next thing to consider is the nature of the world. In actuality to what extent is it starkly "dog-eat-dog?" This phrase means that people habitually act selfishly with no thought of others. Of course, we can readily identify such situations. For example, a drug dealer naturally wants to carry a weapon. This is especially so if the dealer has a reputation for being "nice". For even if the dealer is truly nice in many ways, on the drug scene niceness can be readily construed by others in the trade as being weak and even cowardly – someone that invites being walked over, even killed. Outside of these situations which often skirt the law, we typically find that dog-eat-dog behavior is markedly counterproductive. For example, if I find a business has an ethos of consummate self-centeredness, dishonesty, and selfishness, I will readily bypassed them and give my business to their more customer considerate competition.

Being nice (considerate, empathetic, and compassionate) means that one seeks to establish warm relationships with others. This can be distinguished from a "civil" relationship that is coldly counterfeit. If I approach someone and they treat me "civilly" and not warmly as a friend, I implicitly can sense an aloofness—evidence that they have judged me and hold me as inferior to themselves. So being nice and civil are two strikingly different forms of behavior.

While being nice often comes with some cost, it can also be redemptive and rewarding in the long run. When undergirded by a fighter's strength, it builds self-respect immediately and, over time, respect in others.

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