Is Being Pleasant a Virtue?
Is being pleasant a virtue? That’s the question I asked myself recently after interacting with mostly pleasant people all day. Those people include my fellow Sisters of Notre Dame. My experience has been that we are, as a group, basically pleasant women. It also includes the employees of this apartment complex I now live in. (NOTE: A few weeks ago I moved into another building on our large SND campus—an apartment complex that is part of Notre Dame Village here in Munson Township.) Here I frequently bump into other residents, housekeeping people, food service personnel, and maintenance workers—and they too are pleasant. Recently I went into a drug store where I asked a clerk who was stocking shelves where I could find a certain item. She not only told me where I could find it, she stopped what she was doing and took me to the exact place where my item was. And she did this very pleasantly—even cheerfully.
Being pleasant isn’t automatic. When I was a novice, another novice accused me of “being born with happy genes.” Although we may be predisposed to being pleasant by genetics or upbringing, sooner or later, after we’ve experienced some “major thwacks” in life, we realize we have to cultivate pleasantness as a general policy. I look upon pleasantness as the oil that lubricates interpersonal relationships. Or as the soothing lotion that smooths away our rough edges. Or as the light fragrance that permeates the atmosphere, putting everyone in a slightly better mood.
Heaven knows there are plenty of good reasons NOT to be pleasant. Just read the news headlines. Or perhaps there are physical conditions that get in the way of being pleasant: headaches, arthritis, indigestion. Other factors that can suffocate pleasantness are worries about loved ones, trouble at work, strained relationships, financial problems, fear of the future, feelings of inadequacy—and the list goes on.
I’m not saying we must always be pleasant. Everyone is entitled to a crabby day every now and then. Even Jesus wasn’t pleasant all the time. He was impatient with the obtuseness of his disciples. He railed against the scribes and Pharisees on more than one occasion. And certainly he was far from pleasant when he drove the money changers from the Temple—while wielding a whip, no less. There are situations that demand that we NOT be pleasant; for example, when we see someone being mistreated or when we witness a grave injustice. During my teaching years, I sometimes had to put on my not-so-pleasant-face when confronting a student about his or her behavior. (More than once, such a student said to me: “You’re a nun! You’re supposed to be nice!”)
I look upon pleasantness as the little sister of love. A pleasant demeanor becomes an incarnation of the love we profess as Christians. As a virtue, it can be “practiced” our entire life–even when we may be confined to a health care center. Case in point: the other day I was walking through our health care center and I met one of our oldest sisters, Sister Ronauld. She was being pushed in her wheelchair by one of our aids. The three of us greeted each other pleasantly. Then I asked sister directly, “And how are you today, Sister?”
She smiled broadly and said, “I am having a very good day.” Then added, “How about you?” I said I was having a very good day too, and added, “Especially now—because I’ve met you!” Later I reflected on her words. How could she—objectively speaking—be having a very good day? After all, she’s 96! She’s in a wheelchair. She has to depend on others to go just about anywhere. And she needs help with all of her personal needs. And yet she can still be such a pleasant woman. I have never lived with her, but those who have tell me, “She was a joy to live with.” Pleasantness, then, was not a virtue she decided to practice when she turned 90. It was probably a virtue she lived her entire life.
Let us conclude this reflection with this little prayer:
God, source of all love, help me to be a more pleasant person—especially in my daily interactions with others: those I live with, I work beside, I serve or who serve me, and even total strangers I encounter on any given day. Keep me more mindful of my demeanor, my facial expression, my choice of words, and the tone in which I speak them. If I encounter a situation that demands that I NOT be pleasant, give me the courage to speak and act on behalf of others. May I always remember that being pleasant is a part of the love that you are calling me to extend to others. And finally, I thank you for all the pleasant people I will encounter today. Amen.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest) where do you rate your pleasantness?
Can you recall some situations when you felt called NOT to be pleasant? If so, describe one of those times.
I said pleasantness is the little sister of love. Is she also the little sister of faith? Explain your answer.
I chose three SHORT videos for today. The first is a Eucharistic song entitled “Many and Great.” It’s written by Fr. Ricky Manalo, a Paulist priest who currently teachers at Santa Clara University, a Jesuit University in Silicon Valley, CA. He’s written some beautiful new liturgical music (some with Asian overtones) and has won numerous awards. The second video is a 4 minute interview with Fr. Manalo entitled “Praying at the Piano.” And the third, is a beautiful version of Ukraine’s National Anthem.
“Many and Great” by Fr. Ricky Manalo:
“Praying at the Piano,” interview with Fr. Ricky Manalo:
Here is the National Anthem of Ukraine sung by Zlata Ognevich. The photos highlight the beauty of this country… before the war…
I invite you to comment below on anything regarding today’s reflection.
Thank you Sister Melannie.
Pray for Ukraine.
Hi Sr. Melannie
You make every Monday so pleasant for all of us!
I think pleasantness is a gift and a virtue. Thank you for this wonderful reflection and the great music!!
Keeping Ukraine in my daily prayer. May God fill them with even greater resolve and Courage.
This is tremendous- thank you Sister!!!!
Sunflower seeds comes to me on Tuesday. Always welcome. Always inspiring. Thank you.
Hello Sister Melanie,
I would rate my pleasantness at around 7. I try to say Hello or good morning to people I see while walking, and smile at them now that we don’t have to be masked.
Ukraine’s National Anthem is a wonderful expression of their love for their country, and the landscape of the country is more beautiful than I imagined. Thank you so much for helping us to know God, ourselves and our world better.
Thank you so much for including the Ukrainian National Anthem this morning. Many prayers go out to the people who live there. Loved your story of the sister who was pleasant despite her circumstances. She can teach all of us that every day is truly a gift.
I’m with you Melanie. I’m wowed daily by the pleasantness and
joy of so many I live with despite the various hidden and obvious
aches and pains they live with. Thank you for the interview with Ricky
Manalo whose music is so beautiful and new. Mostly thanks for the Ukrainian national anthem. Besides praying, its a wonderful way to be close to them and their beautiful country.
This has been one of my projects for Lent. To reconsider myself and improve in this and in the kindness department. Thank you.
We need more pleasant individuals who take the opportunity to help others have a blessed day! Thank you always for your kind words and thoughts! Have a very pleasant day and week! Much peace to you this day!
Thank you Sister Melanie for your reflection on being pleasant. It is such an easy way to brighten someone else’s day. The Ukrainian national anthem brought me to tears. The beautiful images of their country is such a contrast to the terrible images we see in the news. Praying that they will prevail and bring peace to their land.
Good morning, Sr. Melannie…
Good morning, all…
Thank you Sr. Melannie for your blog that exudes a pleasantness we know you possess.
Between May of 1983 and March of 1984, two things happened to me that have shaped how I approach the world. The first one was the miracle of birth — our first child Kathryn was born! I remember holding her for the first time. There she was, wrapped in “swaddling clothes”! She sneezed, and I said “God bless you, God bless you” about a million times!
The second one was the death of my brother Tom. He died of bone cancer, and I remember cradling him in my arms as he was dying. Someone told me that hearing is the last sense to go before death, and so I whispered in his ear “I love you.” I’m pretty sure that was the only time I ever told him that.
Both these events produced tears, and later, as I reflected on that year of joy and sadness, I realized I held someone at the beginning of life and someone at the end of life. I realized then what is fairly obvious — we are all on a journey to the inevitable. And so as we all journey together, we need to be patient, kind, forgiving, compassionate, and, yes, pleasant.
John – Your comment was particularly familiar to me as 1983 was also one of great loss and great joy for me. I lost my only sister unexpectedly in February of 1983 and gave birth to my first and only child in November 1983. It was an overwhelming year filled with the most powerful feelings of love – one with great sadness and one with so much love and joy that I never knew existed. We are all on this journey together and the kinder and more pleasant we can be to all around us and whose lives we touch, the more it will be reflected back to us. I also realized how meaningful people’s responses are in these life changing times and it shaped how I have tried to respond to others. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you, Kathy!
Thank you for including the Ukrainian song.
With all of the atrocities that are shown daily to human individuals/communities/countries gives me a sense that Satan is working overtime.
Dare the message of the angels on Christmas: “Peace on earth and goodwill to all” be heard during the time of Lent! May the inhabitants of earth live each day in peace, love, kindness and pleasantness!
Thank you for your thoughts on pleasant! I am reminded of the quote from the movie HARVEY: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUOxEwCuEgQ
“In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.” –Elwood P Dowd
Thank you for the lovely Ukrainian national anthem! Prayers for the safety of the Ukrainian people!
Prayed at the Holy Protection Byzantine Ukrainian monastery in Eagle Harbor Michigan this past Sunday. Thanks for the anthem that brought that alive again.
Pleasantness…what a lovely trait to think abut and put on my radar. Both my pleasantness and that of others. Thank you for the reflection. And I have to say you are such a wonderful teacher (how fortunate your students were). I always learn something from your reflections.Today it was the pentatonic melodies. Loved the interview with. Fr. Ricky. Thank you for the many ways you expand our worlds. And may God continue to bless you in the many ways you minster and share your pleasantness!
I started a new job in a busy teaching hospital. A fellow coworker that I passed in the hallway each morning I always greeted with a cheery “Good Morning”. He did not respond in any way. I was informed by others “he’s like that”. I continued with my morning greeting. It took a few months but eventually he did respond to my greeting with a pleasant reply. It cost nothing to be pleasant to others. It might just help them know they are being seen and that they matter.
Thank you, Sister Melannie for the beautiful videos.
Two thoughts. First, as someone who has known Sr. Ronauld since 1971 and lived with her for many years, I was so happy to read these words about her. She is not only pleasant, but also one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. Second, I am reminded of the words of Fr. Greg Boyle—although he attributes the idea to Fr. Bill Cain—about standing in awe of what people have to carry, rather than in judgment of how they carry it. Reflecting on and living this idea would go a long way in making our world a kinder, gentler one.
Bless you Sr. Melannie. I was with you this past weekend at the Covington Women’s retreat. I live in a senior community with many less able individuals. It is so important to greet them with a smile and ask how is the day going. Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and the wearing of the GREEN will cheer many of these dear souls. Priscilla
My New Year’s resolution this year was to love more deeply and wider and so this has been at the forefront of my mind most of this year. I feel pleasant/kind most of the time, for I have been gifted with the ability to see the cup half full and nothing is either/or….it is all pretty much both/and. That seems to allow kindness to filter through most all the time.
The Ukrainian national anthem brought me to tears, as well….such optimism and hope in their new-found freedom….in their beautiful country….all blasted to bits.
I pray for strength and hope for all of them as they face this devastating reality…..God never closes a door, we know, without opening a window and what is my part in their recovery?
Have mercy on us all God of love and forgiveness…
I definitely believe it’s a virtue to make in our souls or hearts an inviting “space” where others feel welcome!