“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good.” (Luke 6:45)
I used to be a nice guy. I really did. And guess what? I found the saying, “Nice guys finish last” to be very true.
Of course, that was years ago.
That was before I met my wife. Before I got married. And mostly, before life called me up to the plate to provide for, protect, and live for my family.
It was also before life’s major heartaches, bumps, cuts, and bruises tested my mettle again and again.
Back then, I was nice. Very nice. Too nice.
You see, as a young, idealistic, and naive Christian man, I made the mistake of equating being nice with being good – and I paid a hefty price for it. I thought being nice was the equivalent of being godly; of being like Jesus. Not only did I get used by women and by the world, but I even got pushed around in Church!
Thank God I grew out of it! Mostly out of necessity.
A few years back, my next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman. We would sometimes take the time to chit-chat. Every time we finished talking, he would always exhort me by saying: “Be good.” That was his way of saying ‘see ya later.’
There was much value in these two words.
Today, in this article, I’d like to address the differences between being nice, and being good. And trust me, the difference is huge!
It is my hope that if you’re a nice guy, like I was, you will drop it like a bad habit and begin the uphill climb into becoming a good man instead.
So, here are the ten main differences I found between nice guys and good men…
1- Nice guys are insecure. Good men are confident.
What defines a good man is twofold:
- He is righteous. Keep in mind righteousness doesn’t mean perfection. David was a man after God’s own heart, but he was far from perfect (adulterer and murderer).
- He is confident. Confidence in God and in your own abilities and potential is the big leveler here. It’s the main difference between good men and nice guys, and as we will see… it just keeps coming back.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (1 Timothy 1:7)
2- Nice guys aim to please people. Good men aim to please God.
The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas A. Kempis says:
“He who neither cares to please men nor fears to displease them will enjoy great peace.”
In fact, while nice guys are liked by most people, it isn’t the case with good men. Many good men are despised by people. Case in point: Jesus. He was good… and yet he wasn’t always liked.
3- Nice guys lack character. Good men have strong character.
What does strong character mean? Does it mean to be abrasive? No, not at all. In fact, strong character should never be associated with being harsh.
For the guys who grew up in the eighties like me, there is a story I wrote in my book about Optimus Prime – the leader of the autobots. Peter Cullen, the voice actor who made Optimus Prime famous, explained what happened when he auditioned for the part back in the 1980’s.
Peter’s brother Larry saw action in Vietnam as a Marine 2nd Lt. He came back to Los Angeles and roommated with Peter for a few years. At the same time Peter was going to audition for Optimus Prime. They had a funny exchange. Peter said, “I’m going to an audition.” He says, “For what?” Peter replied, “I’m gonna be a truck.” He laughs. Peter added, “No, Larry. It’s a hero truck!” He says, “A hero truck? Well if you’re gonna be a hero, be a real hero. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t be a Hollywood such-and-such. Be strong enough to be gentle. Be understanding. Be compassionate, and be able to kick ass — in a good way.”
He said it in a voice that was subdued and calm. He’s 13 months older and 6 inches taller. Made of steel. “He was my hero”, said Peter. “It weighed heavily on me. So I’m at the audition reading the breakdown of the character and what I have to say in the audition. I can just feel Larry’s words coming out of my mouth. So, I took his sound — my first words were [again, lowering his voice], “My name is Optimus Prime.” And all these years later, we’re talking about it.
This story stuck with me. “Be strong enough to be gentle.”
This is what strong character is like. It’s what Optimus was like, and it’s certainly what Jesus was like.
“Intentionally building character means that we resolve to build Christlike character: that is, we actively engage in putting certain character traits in our lives.” – Christine Wood, author of Character Witness.
“The is a time and a place to be nice. But being good is a full time job.”
4- Nice guys get pushed around. Good men are respected.
My mother used to tell me that one of the hardest things in life was to respect yourself. Basically, what she meant was that not living for the opinions of others took guts.
Nice guys often do not even respect themselves, therefore they are not respected.
Good men, even when they do things that people might not approved of, will still be respected because of the way they go at it.
I once was a member in a Church where they required the members to do cleaning on a regular basis – including the bathrooms. They made this pass as a ministry. That’s debatable.
So, why did I do it? Because I was a nice guy, yes. But also because I let myself be manipulated into the ‘Do it for the Lord’ spiel. And finally, I did it to be liked. In short, I did it for all the wrong reasons.
It’s one thing to clean the church bathrooms because you feel like duty calls and you’re happy to do it, but it’s quite another to do it because you do not want to displease the pastor and wish to impress the board of elders for future considerations.
I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.
5- Nice guys have a hard time finding a mate. Good men get hitched.
The friend zone is rarely the lot of a good man, but it often is where nice guys find themselves. Nuff said.
6- Nice guys are not good leaders. Good men can be trusted with leadership.
A good man, even if he doesn’t have much experience with leadership, will still probably do an adequate job when put in charge.
A nice guy will struggle greatly in a leadership position because making decisions that are hated or unpopular comes with the territory. So, sooner or later, it will make the nice guy crack.
7- Nice guys offer to help in order to be liked. Good men offer to help out of goodness and duty.
“Motive is crucial in defining the worth of an action.”
8- Nice guys are priority challenged. Good men have their priorities in order.
God, Family, Country… in that order.
Good men are prepared and know their priorities.
If there is one thing I hate, it’s the feminization and emasculation of men on TV.
There are two shows that I really hated with a passion and they were Everybody Loves Raymond and The Big Bang theory.
These were nice guys… and they had all of their priorities out of whack. They served as the typical example of why we shouldn’t be nice guys. On that token, I guess they served as an example of what NOT to be.
9- Nice guys fear to speak up. Good men speak up when they have to.
I shoulda, coulda, woulda, … nice guys always look back with regret. Because they don’t want to offend, they hold their tongue when they should speak up.
Good men on the other hand, speak up when they see injustice or when issues need to be addressed.
10- Nice guys avoid fights. Good men are brave enough to fight not only for themselves, but also for those who can’t fight for themselves.
I asked a friend what he thought the main difference between a nice guy and a good man was. He said, “Violence.” Then he added, “good men aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty in a fight if they have to.”
I like that. It’s true.
Now, I’m not advocating violence for the sake of it. No. But a good man has to be the in-between man. He will stand between his family and outside threats for example. He will be willing to resort to, yes, even physical violence if need be.
For the nice guy, physical violence usually not part of his vocabulary. For the good man however, it can be made necessary depending on circumstances.
So, are you a nice guy… or a good man? Maybe a little of both?
Make every effort to become a good man.
The Lord Jesus was a good man.
P.S. If you liked this blog, you’ll love the podcast titled "Nice Guys vs. Good Men":