Imprisoned by Niceness

Empire FallsMiles Roby represents half of the men in this country. He is a good guy – to a fault. He works hard, loves deeply, helps people whenever he can and patiently waits for his “turn” in life. He is a “nice” guy who is finishing last. This novel tells the story of every man who gets up every morning and goes to a job he hates, gives of himself constantly, never asks for anything in return and lives quietly, without complaint.

“One of the odd things about middle age…was the strange decisions a man discovers he’s made by not really making them.”

Miles Roby is a nice guy. I can relate. I too am a nice guy. Nice guys surrender, over the course of their lives, the ability to identify, recognize or fulfill their own needs. We live in reaction to those around us – to their needs, wants, crisis and desires. We seek love by giving love. There is irony in this equation – it does not work, because we give so much, we lose ourselves. People lose interest in us because we become shells of our former selves. We spend all of our time feeding others, desperately seeking love and acceptance, and we fail to feed ourselves. Our failure is in looking for others to feed us – to approve of us, to affirm us and to encourage us. No one can give you (or me) what you do not already have – they can’t love or believe in what you don’t. This is a reality that the “givers” of the world have a tremendous difficulty accepting. We can’t believe that all this giving won’t get us what we desire most.

So, what do we do? I don’t think we should stop being nice – the world is short on nice and needs all we have to spare. But, we must create some boundaries. We must clarify for ourselves what we value, what we desire and what we aspire to – to generate this entirely from within, based on no external value base – and pursue these things. We must not allow ourselves to be used, to be taken for granted or to be de-valued. You can still be nice, sensitive, supportive and caring – but with clear boundaries you will cease to attract those who prey on the “nice guys.”

You have to become nice – with a backbone.

Nice guys don’t finish last because they are nice – they finish last because they never ask that their needs be met by others. These are men who live, as described by Thoreau, “in quiet desperation.”  They long for something different but they fail to take any steps to realize their dreams. They live in a state of hope, believing that “someone” will recognize how nice they are, what a good person they are, and reward them for their goodness.

“One of the odd things about middle age…was the strange decisions a man discovers he’s made by not really making them.”

“One of the odd things about middle age…was the strange decisions a man discovers he’s made by not really making them.”

“Lives are rivers. We imagine we can direct their paths, though in the end there’s but one destination, and we end up being true to ourselves only because we have no choice.”

“And there comes a time in your life when you realize that if you don’t take the opportunity to be happy, you may never get another chance again.”

The dark truth is, with the exception of the movies, this never happens. These are good people who live, work, then die with their dreams locked inside their hearts. Read Empire Falls, pay close attention to Miles Roby, see yourself in him – change the things that scare you – today!

Be Strong. Stay Hungry. Walk Tall.


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