A Conversation with Paul Coughlin

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Paul, what is a Christian Nice Guy?

A Christian Nice Guy as I define it isn’t really nice at all — it’s fake niceness.  Niceness is a great thing and it represents outstanding virtues. I’m talking about fear and passivity that looks like niceness, that looks like it cares about other people, but in reality it’s a disguise.  It’s a force field that stops people from knowing you and stops you from being known.

It’s very similar to watching the deep-sea diver on Discovery Channel as he touches the Giant Squid. Just as he reaches out, what does the squid do? It squirts out ink; it diffuses the situation. It puts up this murky force field to prevent getting caught. For many men — unfortunately many Christian men — that is what their fake niceness and fake smile is. It’s a smokescreen. It’s not real.

Many women reading this article will know this. The problem is this behavior is so well camouflaged that most people outside the home don’t see it and the poor wife is walking on eggshells, never knowing how the Christian Nice Guy feels, what he thinks, and sometimes even what he does.

Paul, in this environment — a marriage with a Christian Nice Guy — isn’t there a problem with serving your wife? How can you be sacrificial in that setting?

You can’t, because it isn’t love. At the base of sacrifice is a deep and abiding love. When you have fear and passivity in the driver’s seat of your life, you cannot love. We’re all familiar with the scripture: Perfect love casts out fear. I speak from experience that the opposite is also true: Fear casts out love. We might be capable of a low-grade love, but not high-grade, not agape. Not the deep and abiding love that makes relationships work and gives you the motivation and impetus to really sacrifice yourself.

So when a Christian Nice Guy becomes a Christian Good Guy, he’ll be more sacrificial, more optimistic, more loving, more faithful, and more alive than he was previously. He becomes an entirely different person.

What is the difference between Good and Nice?

Ask yourself about nice people you know. Do they ever stand up to injustice? Chances are they do not because they don’t have the backbone required to exercise moral courage the way Jesus did and the way we’re admonished to in the Old and the New Testaments — particularly through the prophets.  So, a nice person often unintentionally with the best of intentions, does things like enable a drug-using family member thinking they are alleviating that person’s discomfort, that they are helping that person toward a better life. When as we know in reality,  that person’s behavior actually makes that person’s life situation worse.

In the same setting, a good person discovers a family member is wasting their life away on drug abuse, they let them crash and burn. They do that not because they don’t care, they do it because they know the sooner that person reaches that pit, the less damage they will do to themselves.

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A good person often does the difficult thing — and love demands a lot of difficult decisions. A nice person avoids uncomfortable situations, thinking that is the path toward spiritual growth and maturity

Where do you think this problem came from? Media? Church?  Culture?

All of the above.

It’s worse for Christian men because they are shown a dangerous caricature of a gentle Jesus, meek and mild, when the bible shows a entirely different Jesus. To say that Jesus is always meek and mild is as fictitious as anything you’d find in Dan Brown’s, DaVinci Code. We can’t blame Hollywood for this, Christianity can by-and-large blame themselves; we are the ones who perpetuated an anti-biblical characterization of Jesus.

It is true Jesus himself said, I am meek of spirit. But we have to ask ourselves, what was he meek toward? The word meek is synonymous with yielding and submissive. Jesus was not yielding and submissive to the will of man; the Gospels are replete with that fact. But he was yielding and submissive to his Father’s will.

Thirdly, what really takes the man out of men, so to speak, is the psychology of passivity. It’s the way passive people think. Most passive men had difficult upbringings; they were neglected, abused, left to fight on their own without guidance. Many were overprotected as children, so they came into adult life timid and anxious.

How does this affect a marriage?

A wife will find that the sins of passivity are legion; there are so many and they are so covert, that it’s one of the most difficult situations for a wife to deal with. What basically happens is that Nice Guys aren’t honest; nice guys lie; they are deceptive.

A small example might be… A Nice Guy doesn’t think it’s safe to say what he thinks; say what he feels; even say what he does; he hides everything. He hides even when there is no reason to hide. It could be as simply deceptive as having dinner with your wife and the man clearly has a look of discontent on his face. The wife says, Honey, what are you thinking? And he gives the response that most Nice Guys give, and that response is: Nothing. No electrons are going through his brain. Apparently he’s thinking of nothing, but his body language says he’s discontent and upset.

Copyright ©  Growthtrac,  2007.

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About Jim Mueller

bio-jim-muellerJim is the founder, with wife, Sheri, of Growthtrac Ministries as well as Program Director of GrowthtracRadio and the architect behind growthtrac.com. Jim holds a B.S. in business management and is a facilitator for PREPARE/ENRICH, the most widely used customized couple assessment tool. He has authored numerous articles, interviewed leading relationship authors and Christian artists, and has contributed to Dr. Les Parrott’s book, The Complete Guide to Marriage Mentoring. Jim has worked for more than 15 years to help premarital couples and married couples build and maintain healthy relationships.

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