If you have been following along in my blog, you will know that this is the fourth post in a series based on the following quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This will be the final post in this series but certainly not the last of Dr. Dyer’s influence. The implicit challenge of ‘looking at things differently’ urges us to reconsider our previous thoughts and realities. Not always as simple as it sounds. This week I reconsider being nice.
Being the older sister, I carried the responsibility of demonstrating my parent’s expectations for my younger sibling. One of these expectations included being nice. In my little girl mind, being nice meant using my manners and showing politeness. However, I noticed that if I showed disagreement with someone, no matter how polite I was about it, my mother would say in her heavy Japanese accent, “Tina, that’s not nice.” If I expressed that I didn’t like something, because I really didn’t, once again I would hear her say, “Tina, that’s not nice.” The worst punishment for me was simply to know that I may have disappointed my parents. So I learned to keep my disagreements to myself and to be agreeable.
I struggled to understand why speaking my mind was seen as an unkind act. Then I learned the art of debate in Mr. Barris’s California Studies class. In his class, Mr. Barris provided opportunities for us to form opinions on current issues and participate in spirited discussions from different points of view. I loved it! My experience in his class taught me that anything can be said or talked about if I was careful to express myself in a way that would be received by the listener. At this point, I developed a strong resentment for “Tina, that’s not nice.” I CAN have a strong opinion and still be nice. I CAN have a different opinion and still be nice. So what did my mother mean?
All these years later, I think I get it. Though I’m bilingual, my mother usually speaks to me in English and sometimes meaning gets lost in translation. What I believe she attempted to interpret was MATOMONA which means “decency.” (However, just to be sure of my hunch, I paused right here in my writing to call her.) I asked her how she would say that word, MATOMONA, in English. What do you think was her response? “Be nice.” She further went on to elaborate…”MATOMONA NO NINGEN NI NARU.” (to become a decent human being)
Wow! This just rocked my world. In this instant, I had no choice but to release the resentment. Unfortunately, I had misunderstood my mother’s intended message. There is an undeniable difference between the definitions of decency and nice.
Decency: behavior that conforms to accepted standards of morality and respectability
Nice: pleasant, agreeable
I now know that my mother was never asking me to just be agreeable. She was teaching me the value of being respectful to the beliefs and intentions of others. She was letting me know that taking others into consideration in our thoughts and actions is necessary to maintain relationships. In a world that seems to have forgotten the significance of decency, I am truly grateful that my mother has always and continues to tell me to be nice. Mom, ARIGATO!