Recently, I overhead someone say, “Well, it just doesn’t pay to be nice.”

photoI challenged him on it. And he said, “I meant that I’m tired of the users who just keep taking. Someone trying to do the right thing just gets hurt. I didn’t mean to literally get paid, Jody.”

Technically, he’s right, in terms of his last line. This is an idiom (idiomatic phrase)–a group of words strung together that aren’t meant to be taken literally. Think: That costs an arm and a leg. Or: He’s got a chip on his shoulder. I could go on and on, but we’ll save my love of idioms for another day. For today, we’ll leave it at: Idioms express ideas through words. Now that’s powerful stuff.

Getting back to “It doesn’t pay to be nice,” I don’t care to delve into where this came from and why. The less we think about it the easier our task will be. So here’s the task: I challenge you, all of you, (myself included) to stop saying this idiom. Stop even thinking it. Let it wither and die so that our language evolves without bringing it along.

Any time you are wondering what you’ll get out of your nice deed, it fails at being a nice deed. When you’re looking for payment, or affection, or just looking to have someone “owe you one,” your nice deed ceases to be solely out of kindness. You’re looking to get something, even if that “something” is just kindness in return. The price is too high.

We all know how the world works: The less you look to get something, the more you will get. So stop looking. Be kind. And do it because it makes you happy.

There’s more to this story. I’m studying the concepts of kindness, giving, and receiving from multiple angles. Recompense, Part One is about Payment. Tomorrow we’ll explore another form.

My book, Upside Down Kingdom, was taught in a college Humanities course its first year in print. The course examined art, love, music, religion, and the way we treat one another as human beings. UDK was required reading. It’s on Amazon.