It’s 2017 and guys are interested in more than just sports and brew. In fact, there’s a whole cottage industry out there trying to teach guys how to be better men. In this environment, does the nice guy still lose out?
Addressing this topic seems impossible without at least a brief nod to my good friend Jack Donovan who, in The Way of Men, states plainly what we all know: “There is a difference between being a good man and being good at being a man.” In short, being virtuous and being capable are not the same thing.
But can’t you be both?
If a lady has a choice between the gal pal in a three-piece suit she can dish about her latest one-night stand to and the guy who can change the oil in her car, take her out for dinner and provide legitimate and genuine moral support, I don’t think I need to tell you who wins.
Of course you can. History is filled with exemplars of men who were both capable and cultured—that is to say, skillful, intelligent, strong folk who provided value and leadership in their communities. Men who could defend their tribe, give generously to those who had not and raise up children worthy of carrying on their name. Ideally, in my estimation, any man who fails to be both robustly capable as well as a cultured man of integrity and reliability has, in some way, failed at being a man.
That doesn’t stop most men from entirely missing the point. Indeed, when men speak of being a “nice guy” (read as “good man”) they’re often being disingenuous. When they say “nice guys finish last” what they really mean is “I pretended to be interested in a woman’s problems and she still wouldn’t have sex with me.”
Of course she wouldn’t. Not only were you disingenuous about your motives, you probably went about it in the weakest, most supplicative manner possible. She didn’t want a girlfriend to eat cookie dough with her while she cried. And the last thing she wanted was a guy volunteering to be a shoulder to cry on who was really just biding his time to make some grand romantic gesture.
For one, your life shouldn’t revolve around women. One of the surest signs that you’re a capable man is that other men notice, even if they don’t come out and tell you. They praise your work. They call you for help with difficult tasks. They recommend you to other men. You become a man of integrity, one who is known both as being a square dealer and as one who can get things done.
None of these are mutually exclusive with being a man of virtue; You can, and ideally should, be both a man of excellence and a man of integrity and character.
“Nice guys” do tend to finish last. Why? In the first place, because they’re rarely actually nice guys. On the contrary, they conceal their agenda (usually sex or romance or some combination of both) behind the false pretense of friendship, understanding and companionship.
If you’re not getting something out of a given relationship, it’s worth considering why you maintain and nurture it. However, the very act of awareness when it comes to your relationships counts for a lot. There’s nothing wrong with having motives in social interactions with men and women alike. The problem comes in when you pretend like you don’t have motives when you actually do.
Rather than trying to be a “good man” or, perhaps even worse, a “nice guy” (seriously, is there anything worse?) strive to be a man of virtue, a capable man of integrity and character. You don’t ask a lying scumbag to help you fix your car on the weekend. You don’t call on an arrogant jerk to be godfather to your first child. You don’t ring up an aggressive douchebag to join you on the golf course on a given Sunday. Upstanding men are reliable. You can count on them, even when things get hard. They’re not going to tap out when you need them the most.
I’m not sure where it would come on the latest Cosmopolitan poll relative to sense of humor and a good smile, but if I were a betting man, I’d say that achieving a unity of capability and culpability is what women are looking for. If a lady has a choice between the gal pal in a three-piece suit she can dish about her latest one night stand to and the guy who can change the oil in her car, take her out for dinner and provide legitimate and genuine moral support, I don’t think I need to tell you who wins.
No one will call you a “nice guy,” but they won’t have to: Because you’ll be known as something much more valuable: a man of honor.