Understanding Relationships – Making The Transition From Nice to Kind


By Gary Moore

Mark Twain once said, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

I’ve always assumed that it’s best to be nice whenever possible. But when tough conversations take place in our marriage relationship and direct challenge is necessary, which is better – nice or tough? Can we be both? Nice, by itself, doesn’t go far enough.

We need to move from nice to kind. Kindness usually involves being nice but goes much further. Being kind involves a gentle strength that comes from a base of confidence. People who are kind care deeply for others and are willing to do what’s best for them in a way that values them.

Someone said that kind people say tough things in a nice way, while nice people never say anything tough. Nice people don’t help others get better because they’re focusing on how they’re perceived. Kind people help others get better because they’re not dependent on them for their own value.

Nice people tend to avoid conflict. If there’s conflict, people might not agree with them, which means they might be upset with them. They can’t risk that because their self-esteem is based on people liking them. So, they try not to express negative emotions, even if they’re feeling those emotions strongly.

Remember, your marriage relationship is not Algebra 1. You can’t multiply two negatives or a negative and a positive together and get a positive. It takes two emotionally healthy people to have an emotionally healthy relationship. Bottling up your emotions doesn’t make them go away; it pressurizes them, so they explode later. You can’t have a close marriage relationship or healthy conversations if you are just protecting your own image by not dealing with your emotions.

That’s another reason why daily check-ins and weekly relationship check-ups are so vitally important.

There are no marriages without issues. Conflict happens in the healthiest ones. When nice people find themselves in conflict, they tend to shift the focus away from themselves. They withdraw; they minimize the issue; they use humor to deflect negative feelings; they try to change the subject; they focus on the other person’s behavior to take the focus off themselves.

All these strategies keep genuine, healthy communication from taking place. These people are focused on being the nice person, protecting themselves instead of dealing with the real issue. They need to make the transition from niceness to kindness.

Let me briefly compare niceness and kindness. As you reflect on these, where do you find yourself?

  • Niceness alone comes from neediness. Kindness comes from confidence.
  • Niceness alone feeds off being liked by others. Kindness simply cares about others no matter what they do.
  • Niceness alone gives in to avoid conflict. Kindness sets boundaries when needed.
  • Niceness alone operates from fear. Kindness operates from love and caring.
  • Niceness alone is weak. Kindness is strong.
  • Niceness alone is selfish. Kindness is selfless.
  • Niceness alone lies to make itself feel better. Kindness speaks the truth in love.
  • Niceness alone focuses inward to be perceived as nice. Kindness focuses outward.
  • Niceness alone cares only about what others think. Kindness just cares.

Being nice isn’t a bad thing unless it’s the only thing. When the goal of being nice is to treat our spouse, or others, with respect, it’s a good thing. When the goal is to manipulate them into seeing us a certain way, it’s a bad thing.

Someone said that kindness is a social lubricant that greases the inner workings of any relationship. If you ask a mechanic the most important thing you can do to extend the life of your car, they will probably say to change the oil and lubricate it on a regular basis.

The same thing is true of marriages. It doesn’t matter if the marriage is three weeks old or thirty years old; it needs regular maintenance and lubrication. If we skip the lubrication, the gears begin to grind. Emotions and irritation become consistent companions, tempers flare, and conversations become tense. That’s because we’ve taken the relationship for granted and ignored the routine maintenance. We’re so focused on issues and feelings that we forget about kindness. Over time, we get irritated with the marriage – even to the point of considering trading it in for a new one.

Maybe it’s just time for a little kindness.

The issues are real. The emotions are real. The conflict is real. But the need for lubrication is real as well. If we ignore it, we short-circuit the connection process. Any movement in the relationship will produce friction, and the best way to deal with friction is with lubrication.

Kindness is not a cure-all for every relationship problem; it will not eliminate conflicts and solve all our problems. But it will make it possible to deal with those issues in a way that keeps the relationship stronger in the process. Kindness is a recurring reminder to the other person that we care about them. It gives the message that we’re committed to them, we value them, and we think they’re worth the effort to tackle tough issues together. It says, “This problem is big, but I think we’re bigger.”


Gary Moore served as associate pastor at Cloverdale Church of God for 15 years. He does couples’ coaching and leads couples’ workshops and retreats called MUM’s the Word. He does a weekly radio program called Life Point Plus on KBXL 94.1FM at 8:45 a.m. on Fridays. Monday mornings at 10 a.m. he does live relationship teaching called MUM Live on his Facebook page Mutual Understanding Method. He may be contacted at [email protected].

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