Some people say, “If you are nice, you will be exploited by others.”
They equate being nice with being naive, with the starry-eyed belief that everyone is good and kind and trustworthy. It’s a sad truth of the real world that the naive are headed for a big shock.
If we want to survive in the rough-and-tumble of life, we can’t be naive. But we can still be nice. Being nice means that we aren’t controlled by vice; that we aren’t driven by envy, greed, anger etc in our dealings with others; that we are cultured and courteous toward others even while sticking to our responsibilities. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (16.02) states that the godly are gentle and are averse to faultfinding — they are nice in the sense that they aren’t harsh or hypercritical.
Ultimately, the difference between being nice and being naive boils down to adherence to dharma. We all have roles to play and duties to do. While doing these, we strive to be as gentlemanly as possible. But if someone stops us from doing our dharma, then we need to take a firm stand, even if that doesn’t look nice.
The Pandavas exemplify being nice without being naive. When Duryodhana, the wicked son of Dhritarashtra, abused and defrauded them, his father tried to weasel out a solution that let Duryodhana keep all his ill-gotten gains while leaving the Pandavas with nothing to even survive or do their dharma. The Pandavas didn’t naively fall for Dhritarashtra’s ruse.
Yet after they neutralized Duryodhana in the Kurukshetra war, they didn’t target Dhritrashtra; they gave him the honor due to a father figure.
Thus, being nice doesn’t mean being naive — it means being firmly devoted to virtue without becoming dominated by vice.[ kindness ] [ naivite ] [ nice ]