Being nice.  It should be easy, an unconscious reaction to people and places.  I don’t mean being polite – I mean being a nice person, a good, look-for-the-best member of society.

I’m not nice.

I’m friendly, quick to put myself on the line to make new friends.  I can small talk and chat and smile along with conversation.  But I’m also the first to jump at mean-spirited gossip.  I’m the first to gibe, and barb and tease.  The first to be snotty and catty.  And the first to cry when someone is mean to me back.

My niceness has been called into question quite a lot lately.  By those who are closest to me.  And it really hurts.  The truth hurts.  I’m not a very nice person.

My hometown has been rocked the past few years by the ravages of bullying.  Several suicides – three in my sister’s class in one year alone – completely needless loss of life, young adults who couldn’t believe in themselves any longer, who listened too closely to the mean, not-nice voices all around them.  Most recently, a girl at the school has been so tormented by others around her, she developed a pulmonary embolism.  A blood clot.  In her leg.  From bullying.

Bullying.  And not the physical kind we see on TV, with smaller boys shoved in corners (though I know for a fact that happens in my hometown as well).  I mean the voices and words and whispers and gossip – the kind of bullying of which I am definitely a perpetrator.  Because I am quick to be a friend, but I am also quick to gossip and snark and take a conversation about another person that step too far.

But never to that person’s face.  Because I’m a coward and I’m not nice.  Saying that I’m “non-confrontational” really just means I’m passive-aggressive and mean and unkind.  My meanness is the darkest place in my soul.  It consumes me.  And even as I try to be a nicer person, I know the darkness is there.  And I find myself succumbing to meanness all over again.