About the Nice Guys

My brain goes on some pretty funny tangents sometimes.  For instance, the other day I was remembering a passing comment said by a friend some time ago.  The friend and his wife had been fellowshiping with my family, and toward the end of our conversation, something was said about a young man in our church.  The friend made the passing comment that the young man was “a nice guy.”

Now, if I hadn’t already had a couple of comments thrown in my direction hinting that this “nice guy” and I would make a good couple (as if the speakers really had any clue what they were talking about), I might not have noticed.  In all likelihood, the friend had no such meaning in mind when he said it.  Nothing was said in direct response by anyone in my family.  But it kind of felt to me like the comment was made for my benefit.

That’s not the first time I’ve heard the words “nice guy” nor will it be the last.  When I hear that phrase, however, I can’t help thinking how shallow it is.

Especially within the church, any guy can be a nice guy.  Think about it.  How would you define a nice guy?  Somebody who is polite, opens doors, and generally wears a smile.  Depending on the particular nice guy, he might add one or two other traits to the list, like good looks, teaching Sunday School, or a good job.  But all of these things are pretty superficial.   What about this list makes a guy good husband material?

Okay, so you have to start somewhere, but seriously, I want to know why the well-meaning sisters in our churches use these words when hinting about someone they think we ought to consider.  I think I have a pretty good idea of why, actually.  Two reasons.  In some cases, it is probably because there isn’t that much more to the guy than that he is “nice.”  Why that might be is a whole different can of worms which I am not going to open.  In other cases, I think they use the phrase “nice guy” because their own relationship with the guy is so superficial that “nice” is all they know about him.

What do we girls do about it?  Well, I generally just smile tolerantly and move to the next topic.  People get the idea.  I’m not interested in talking about “nice guys.”  But sometimes I wonder if there isn’t a way to encourage people to spend more time getting to know a guy before they recommend him as nice (enough to marry).  Then they could use stronger words to describe him that would be more likely to catch a girl’s attention (or not).

Does this happen to guys too?  Do they get pushed toward the “nice girls”?  Sure.  My brother has seen a little of it (some from the same ladies I’ve been dealing with), although with him it has been easier because he’s away at college and because people give guys a break longer because it’s generally expected that they should have a job before they get married.  Granted they may expect a guy to have a girlfriend before that, but it doesn’t seem to be a major cause of concern to them if he doesn’t.

I don’t think the “nice girl” label is any deeper than the “nice guy” label.  A nice girl is polite (meaning doesn’t talk your ear off), pleasant, usually pretty, and generally has either brains, artistic talent, housekeeping skills, or a love of children to recommend her.  Now, this description gives the guys a little more to work with, in my opinion, but still doesn’t really indicate whether the girl is really good wife material and completely ignores the compatibility question.  I suppose because the guys are supposed to go find that out.  But don’t you think that young people are perfectly capable of going and finding that out without the distracting hints?

How about the other side to this “nice guy” “nice girl” issue.

Are you one of them?  Do the people who know you know enough to give you a good recommendation?  This one is a tougher one to assess because we don’t generally hear how others describe us.  Still, we should be aware enough of ourselves to know whether we have a distinct purpose and mission in life that is visible to other people.  We will know if we are genuinely caring about other people enough to get involved in their lives beyond carrying a few bags for them when they need a hand or pitching in to help with refreshments for an event.

I’ve also found that it pays to look beyond the “nice guy” label and find out for myself what someone is like.  Just because someone else’s relationship with a guy is so superficial that they are reduced to “nice-ing” them doesn’t mean that mine has to be.  At the same time, it pays to be realistic.  Not every nice guy has interests or goals that are similar to mine (or yours).  And maybe I also don’t need to be more than “a nice girl” to some people who don’t share my particular frame of reference and aren’t likely to understand why I’m uninterested in chasing guys, however nice they may be.

Just some thoughts.  Like I said, sometimes my brain goes off on tangents . . .

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4 Comments on “About the Nice Guys”

  1. Nathan E. Says:

    Well, I enjoyed your tangent. 🙂

    Bill Jack with Worldview Academy pointed out that ‘nice’ is made up of a Latin root that essentially means ‘ignorant.’

    So it makes me laugh to hear the phrase ‘nice guy.’

    What you said was insightful. When I don’t know a girl well enough, the phrasing I fall back on is ‘well, she is a nice girl.’ ‘sweet’ also fits the bill. But that isn’t helpful at all. It also doesn’t quite do them justice. Maybe I should stick with not saying anything if I don’t know anything worth saying. 🙂

    any way, good post.

    • Kind of like the old rule, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Oh, wait, there’s that word again! Maybe we should change the saying to be “If you can’t say something worthwhile, it’s not worth your while to say something.” Or something like that.

      Thanks for your two cents! 😉

  2. a.w. marks Says:

    I’ve found that as a man’s faith matures, and his obedience becomes more reckless, people rarely describe him as “nice.” Encouraging a Godly woman to marry a nice guy is usually done with safety and protection in mind. That kind of marriage is perfectly “acceptable” as a believer, but it hardly mirrors God’s love or pursuit of His Bride. The man that models Christ’s love for the church may carry a bit more “worldly foolishness” than the nice guy, but he would never pass the opportunity to serve and protect his wife.

    • I think you’ve expressed the reason for my dislike of the term. “Nice” doesn’t stand for mature, and that’s what stands out to me in a guy – maturity. “Nice” has no depth of character, no high aspirations, and no far reaching vision. I’m not saying that every guy who is labeled “nice” by someone has none of these, but the chances are, if a man has not shown himself more than “nice,” the rest of it is either in the seedling stage or not there at all.

      In one sense, I’m grateful to those who apparently have my safety and protection in mind. They may or may not realize that I’m still safely protected in my father’s house and am not likely to leave it for anything less than God’s chosen man. At the same time, I’m not inclined to settle for “acceptable.”

      The same is probably true on the flip side of the coin. Godly young men are probably encouraged to marry “nice” girls because it’s better than having them go off and marry someone who will lead him astray. Of course, “nice” in a girl is no deeper than in a guy!

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