The myth of the nice guy is not as simple as "Nice guys finish last." No, the problem goes much deeper than that. In today's society the role of masculinity is taking a dramatic turn. Gone are the days of the macho, carnage loving, chauvinistic examples of manhood that dominated culture. Nowadays we have hipster, eco-friendly, equal opportunity types of males that are destined to take over the world one-app-at-a-time.
I just saw "21 Jump Street", coincidentally, and in the movie Channing Tatum's character Jenko must go back to school in order to infiltrate a growing drug ring that's starting with the students. His job is to get in with the cool kids, since he was a cool kid in high school, which seems easy enough. Unfortunately he's faced with a dilemma, cool kids here are different from when he was in school, and he doesn't know how to navigate this new change in society. "It's backwards...and it has to be stopped." he effectively says, afraid of what this transition will mean for him, but also bringing forth a moment of laughter from the audience.
I'm not using 21 Jump Street as an example of what's happening in today's culture so that we can stop it, cause the truth is we couldn't if we wanted to, but only because it was a funny coincidence. However the more that I think about it the more I see the similarities.
I originally wanted to write this post in response to the mindset that I've seen in guys the past couple of years. They claim they are not the typical man. They don't watch sports, are skinny, and know all the lyrics to their favorite Disney movies. Yet this mindset is being embraced in retaliation to any male who would ever think of laying a hand on a woman in a violent manner, or who has ever used a woman for their own benefit. Nice guys, with all their insecurities, are aware that they are not "manly" by society's standards, but also believe in their hearts that they are more of a man than men ever were.
But this isn't a commentary on the change of manhood as perceived by culture, because those studies have been done before, where most of them can point towards the ever evolving depiction of men doing manly things within cinema throughout the decades. Cool kids are different nowadays, but that doesn't make them less or more cool. Cultures change.
The funny thing is, that once you go beyond high school, everyone realizes they weren't as cool as they thought they were, nor are the kids they looked up to. We were all just kids...
So it's strange that we as men would believe that this shift in mentality is actually any different from what men thought in other eras.
I say we because I claim to be a "Nice guy." I'm the same as other nice guys my age. I don't really pay attention to sports. I don't seek out the gym that much. I focus more on art and creativity than anything else. I'm sensitive and emotional at times. I empathize with women and probably have more in common with them than I would any "typical" man. I could go on-and-on. The point is that men nowadays are embracing more qualities that would have been considered "feminine" in the past, and this is something that tends to make them think "we're not really men." Blame it on the fact that 50% of millennials grew up without a father, like me, or you can blame it on Glee, like Jenko did. I don't care what's to blame, but there is no denying that society has noticed.
That's why commercials have centered around men being men while using the right body wash, razor, cell-phone, or car insurance. TV shows have that typical male who is over-confident, womanizing, and naturally awesome. Society is trying to bring back an older definition of "man" by making it cool, and holding on to these fading ideals. Unfortunately you can't stop it, because young girls adore a nice guy; whether it's because they can probably play an instrument or enjoy writing in journals, I have no idea, but manhood will always bend to the will of what women demand.
And there in-lies the myth: Nice Guys are what women want.
I've noticed this more in the christian community than anywhere. Girls believe it, and so do the nice guys themselves. They are constantly aware of the brokenness of yesterday's society and are fighting against it with passion. Young males who love Jesus are being honest about their addictions to porn, advocating against human trafficking, and subverting the mentality of what older males used to believe men were supposed to be like as leaders. There is a lot of good in what they are doing, and women are taking notice and loving it.
The problem is not that I disagree with what nice guys are doing; the problem is that they are defining manliness completely wrong, and just because they are changing society doesn't mean it's any different from before.
Just because you are sensitive and creative, doesn't make you more or less of a man. Whether you watch sports, play video-games, or enjoy doing yoga barefoot on top of a mountain, these are not qualities that define what a man is. The problem is that we believe that we are re-defining what manhood/masculinity are all about when in reality we're just representing a difference in perception of the same desert. We may be fixing the mistakes of past generations, but in the end we're no closer to the oasis. Just because there is a difference in culture, doesn't mean there's a difference in character.
Let me repeat that...
This is a struggle of Culture VS Character.
Whereas culture means a change in perspective and the style of how a certain society does things, and character tests who an individual really is.
Where this applies to the myth of the Nice Guy is also why I believe all guys are douchebags. Just because you are more sensitive doesn't mean you aren't capable of hurting a woman. Just because you can be best friends with girls doesn't mean you appreciate them more. Just because you are a good listener doesn't make you a better man. You can still be a nice guy, by cultural standards, but still be a jerk, by standards of character.
The defining line between boys and men, in truth, are a lot harder to change.
Boys are selfish, prideful, and foolish.
Men are selfless, humble, and whatever the opposite of foolish is. (The Bible would say "wise" but I'm sure that's open to interpretation.)
I've seen grown males who are still boys by this standard. They care more about their cars then they do their own wives. They take pride in their sports teams and their political parties. They are foolish in believing that the world must cater to their needs because they work the typical nine-to-five and drive a company car.
These are not men. These are overgrown boys.
My generation has seen this, and have attempted to fight against it. This is why society is in transition and cultures are changing. Yet I've seen young males who care more about their broken hearts than they do their own friends. They take pride in their beliefs and their mission statements. They are foolish in believing they can be saviours to many broken women because they can empathize with heartbreak and know how to give proper hugs.
These are not men. These are boys who will never grow up.
Each culture has their pros-and-cons, but the underlying factor still remains in the selfish, foolish, prideful characteristics that tend to plague males of all generations.
Women believe they want a nice guy based off of the douchebags they've met/had experiences with in the past. They believe chivalry is dead because guys are just all around jerks and have no concept of romanticism; yet they fall for the first guy who can show hints of romance without understanding that this is just a douchebag in disguise. Chivalry is not dead because guys no longer greet you with flowers or hold open the door for you. It is dead because guys aren't adhering to the Knightly Code of being generous, selfless, humble, and all around servant leaders.
Look up chivalry. You'll find it has less to do with romance than you might think.
Girls need to stop demanding nice guys who will listen to them, hold them, and watch the same romantic-comedies that they do. Nice Guys need to stop believing that they are better men just because they aren't macho, chauvinistic, or believe that women belong in the kitchen.
And for God's sake stop putting yourself down just because you don't conform to what society believes is "Masculine" by saying "I'm not much of a man" or buying into the commercials/tv-shows/movies that represent masculinity completely wrong. Thinking too low of yourself doesn't make you aware of the differences in manhood, it's just making you more insecure, and that's self-destructive. Don't mistake humility with thinking too low of yourself, because that's just another form of selfishness - in either case you're just thinking about yourself.
The myth of the nice guy is that we believe we are better men than those other douchebags, but the truth is that we're not. Trust me. I'm a nice guy and I've still been a douchebag to women in past relationships. I've hurt them and been selfish, foolish, and prideful in my time with them. The truth is that I wasn't a nice guy at all, I was just a culturally different type of male, and I was a boy who didn't want to grow up.
Peter Pan is my favorite fictional character of all time. I even claim to be Peter Pan sometimes.
But the story of Peter Pan is actually about letting kids be kids while they are children instead of making them grow up too fast, and not about NEVER growing up.
If you want to be a man, and a true nice guy, then you need to grow up. Stop being selfish. Put aside foolish things. Practice humility. This is the mark of a real man, and the obstacles you have to constantly overcome throughout your lifetime. Stop worrying about the cultural differences, because tomorrow that may change, but focus on these character traits and you'll notice a difference that will last. Teach this to your bros. Whether you like sports, cars, comics, video games, coffee shops, bars, organic, red-meat, or etc - this isn't about culture, this is about character.
Women: Demand this of your nice guys...in fact...demand this of all guys...and don't fall for their manipulative schemes.
(When I first thought about this blog post I was simultaneously going through "the character matrix" in my Gateway College Small Group with Eric Bryant. Some of those terms and teachings have since bled over to what I intended to say here, but can be used for anyone who wants to dig deeper into their character - not only nice guys. If you'd like to learn more about the character matrix please feel free to join our discussion group in South Austin, TX on monday afternoons, or you can pick up the book UPRISING by Erwin McManus which includes the character matrix within it. I hope you enjoyed this.)
Thoughts? What are nice guys doing right? Is there still room for "typical men" in today's society?
Mattias is an actor, writer, filmmaker, and editor currently living in Los Angeles, CA. He often writes about his observations about life, the human condition, spirituality, and relationships. He also enjoys writing about movies, pop culture, formula one, and current events. Often these writings are 'initial thoughts' and un-edited, as authentic as possible, and should be considered opinions. If you're interested in commenting on his work, or continuing the conversation, you should consider following him on Twitter or share an article on social media, where he would love to engage even further. Consider subscribing via RSS for more.