From time to time, I make a trip to a Godiva store and buy myself some $15 chocolate covered cashews. They’re delicious. I appreciate their goodness. I shared my Godiva with a few people. One of them got slick at the mouth about the quality of my chocolate. Okay. Cool. The next time I bought myself some chocolate and shared them, I the person who complained about my good chocolate a Hershey’s bar since that was about their speed/what they could appreciate, and that my friends, was an act of grace, as I owed that person nothing. That person wanted to know why I wasn’t being “nice” to them (read: sharing my good chocolate). I told them that they chose to disrespect my offering and had lost access to it.
Lessons learned: no casting pearls before swine and “nice” is a trap.
I’ve embraced those ideas and have been more intentional about not casting my pearls before swine in many areas of my life. If I’m honest, I struggle a bit with this in dating and partnership, in part, or maybe mostly, because of patriarchy’s need for me (and other women) to be “nice” to them and everyone else to prove our worth. I know that niceness is a hustle. “Nice” women give of themselves to support the men who they care about or desire to partner with. “Nice” demands that women cast our pearls before men who may be wholly unable or unwilling to value our offerings. I know that nice is a lazy, thoughtless, placeholder word that is weaponized against women to demand a cordial response to indifference, disinterest, disrespect, or lack of care from people who do not have the capacity or willingness to value who we are.
Structurally, we don’t always have the luxury of legitimate choice. Systems are real and don’t always make it possible or easy for folks to have full say over their pearls. Systems of oppression are gonna oppress (capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, ableism, etc.). That said, in our everyday interpersonal lives, I’d like to think that depending on our social location, we have some degree of autonomy, no matter how small. It’s at that location that I encourage us to take up the practice of not casting pearls before swine/letting go of “nice”.
In my world, not casting pearls before swine/letting go of “nice” is not about being ugly or rude to people. Choosing not to cast my pearls before swine is about honoring my worth (when I’m able to, because, like I said, I’m not always able to do that). I identify as christian and have the fruit of the Spirit as my metric for action toward others. Luckily for me, “nice” isn’t a fruit of the Spirit lol. If I’m being loving, joyful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled, then I’m doing well. I’ll even throw in some grace, an extra measure of kindness or goodness to misunderstandings and unmet expectations but not for repeated or egregious harms toward me.
I don’t know everything, but this I know for myself: Grown people who don’t have the capacity or desire to appreciate what we have to offer (emotional labor, kindness, grace, patience, service, creativity, time, etc.) are not entitled to the fullness of who I am/we are. I know that we do ourselves well to recognize other people’s inability and/or unwillingness to find value in who and what we are. Be it Godiva, love, labor, or time, when folks aren’t able or willing to value it, you don’t owe them “nice”. Whatever your metrics/measures for how you want to engage people, remember that swine will clamor for whatever you’re “nice” enough to offer, including the pearls that they don’t have the capacity or willingness to desire.