What Exactly Is A "Nice Guy?"

I’ve been teaching John Eldridge’s book "Wild At Heart" on Wednesday nights at my church this quarter. This Wednesday will be the last class, when we finish up with "An Adventure To Live." If you’ve read the book, you know that John brings up often that Christian men are often told by our churches that our highest aim should be to become a "really nice guy." He says that being a nice guy is not what Christian manhood is all about. Men have a wild side, and are dangerous, and we should let our strength come through. I’ll let you read the book because I obviously can’t do the book or the points contained in it justice as I’m winding down and getting ready for bed.

The discussion came up in our class about what exactly it means to be a "nice guy." Possibly some of us have a tainted image. I can remember as a teenager and young adult being that one guy that all the girls thought was a "nice guy", but would not be "more than friends" with. I can remember parroting the timeless phrase "nice guys finish last." What does that all mean?

We came up with a definition that we can work with. This is not the be all, end all definition of a "nice guy", but possibly it is a point to continue a discussion from. A nice guy, as I put together, is a man with no real boundaries. A "nice guy" is a man who is afraid to anger or upset other people. A "nice guy" is a man concerned with pleasing others, and can only deal with his own anger and frustration in a passive-aggressive manner, at least, when the objects of his anger are around.

Honestly, that used to be me. It probably still is me to a point, in many ways, but I have outgrown quite a bit. There was a time when one of the worst things that could have happened in my world is to have somebody become angry at me.

Now, obviously, neither John Eldridge nor I are advocating license for men to run around acting like complete jerks; oblivious to others around them. There is a difference between being a passive-aggressive nice guy weenie and being kind. I believe that is what got our conversation started, the implication that kindness could be confused with the "nice guy" that John Eldridge says not to emulate. Real men, strong, dangerous men, can and should be kind. There is a place for tenderness in a real man. But there is also a place for being strong, for being dangerous. There is a place for taking charge and for going head to head when a situation requires it.

I recalled an image, which may have been from a previous generation, of a "nice guy" putting up with a lot of frustration at work and going home to take it out on his wife and kids. I’m not sure if many from my generation are like that. Most of us grew up wondering why Dad doesn’t just tell his boss that he’s an idiot. I have no problem asking people, even if they have power over my career, if they are smoking crack. Normally the stories sound better when I tell my wife, or tell some friends over beer, but if I have a question about a rule or policy, I will speak up. I usually lose, but I’ve never been afraid to share my opinion; at least, not lately.

I’ve leave anyone who reads this with two questions: what is a "nice guy", and was it more of a baby boomers generation issue to be afraid to speak up at work?


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