I have railed against the Gospel of Nice many times. Not accidentally is Minnesota Nice the place that produced the very-nice-turned-vindictive Garrison Keillor, but also the Holy Land for American Scandinavian niceness that is so often stripped back to reveal a judgementalism and intolerance, primly and politely expressed. Whole denominations have adopted Niceness.
I found an excellent clarification of what is wrong with this in an unusual place: a lengthy proof that the Muppet Christmas Carol is in fact the best adaptation of Dickens's work. *(Site registration can be avoid by clicking the upper right of the box.) One doesn't have to agree with the overall premise - I have never seen that version or most others, but am mildly sympathetic but ultimately undecided myself - to see that the contrast with decency reveals the inadequacy of niceness.
It may seem like splitting hairs to suggest that Kermit’s decency is an order of magnitude more appropriate for the Cratchit role than Mickey’s famous niceness, but while niceness and decency are both archetypal virtues, one leaves substantially more room for nuance. Mickey’s definitional quality leaves him bland; Kermit’s decency, on the other hand, allows for bouts of vanity and pettiness without invalidating his core respect for the value of all life. Niceness can be faked, but decency must be proven, and this quality serves as a magnetic pole for anyone—be they human or frog—to find their way back to where surface-level niceness fails.
Exactly right. It is better to be decent than nice.
*Skip Stave Five. Skip Stave Five.