Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | July 6, 2010

Nice Guys

Peter France makes an astute comment that’s not especially original, but struck a chord. Wanting nice guys to do better than finish last – like cheering for the underdog – is a particularly American trait. Let’s face it, no one in his right mind would have bet on the colonists and their rag tag army of patriots to beat the world class super power of the day and win Independence, but that’s what we did… with a little help from our friends.  So there’s a long tradition of this in our country.

And perhaps the same goes ’round: The nice guys, the little guys, the guys who take on “the system” fare pretty well if we, their friends, support them. Only too often we’re just too plain busy helping ourselves to bother with it, or one of us tries to work it alone thinking we don’t need the bother of “everybody” when instead we can do better with just the extra “kick” the “wise guy” offers to put us over the top.  I mean, think about it… the prize is the same, ain’t it? And it’s a better prize when it’s not split in so many pieces, huh?

And so we spurn the help we need, choosing to work it the way we hope will be to our advantage but the truth is that it means the little guy, the nice guy ’round the corner…suffers for our preference to go it alone. He might even be us, or one of us… and all because we preferred to be someone else and help ourselves. Then again… maybe we simply don’t believe that other guy is a nice guy.  We tell ourselves, “Little guys aren’t nice… they’re just little. I wanna play with the big boys.” Uh huh. “Cause it works so well, huh?” Sure it does. Isn’t that how we found ourselves in this mess? Hmmmm.

“Most Greeks, it must be admitted, would prefer their political leaders, their investment advisers and especially their accountants to have a touch of the poniros (rogue or knave who gets on by bending the rules). It would show a culpable want of prudence to place one’s affairs in the hands of someone wholly without guile.

But, although we may give the poniros his due in human activities, we regularly pray to escape his clutches. In the phrase “deliver us from evil” of the Lord’s Prayer, the word “evil” is a translation of poniros. And a world in which the poniros is unreservedly admired and unfailingly successful is seen on Patmos as a fallen one. We may have to live in it, to go along with it, even to adopt its ways; but we occasionally have nostalgia for a time that never was but ought to be, in which nice guys don’t finish last.

In fact, “nice guys” on Patmos – and the phrase of course, includes both sexes – are recognized by everyone and even labeled as such. They have a quality that is called charis. The dictionary defines the word as “charm” or “grace”. It does exist elsewhere, but rarely. Here on the island you might find it in the baker, the dustman, a priest, a schoolteacher – I have seen it in all of them – and you recognize it immediately. It shows first in the eyes. They are calm, steady, mild, full of interest but without aggression. The person with charis has humility in the sense that the Desert Fathers understood it: not as an ingratiating meekness but as a keen interest in  and enthusiasm for the other person. It has to be admitted that sometimes people with charis do come in last. But that is not a law of our society.”

– Peter France, “A Place of Healing for the Soul: Patmos“; pp. 210-211.

And I particularly like “It shows first in the eyes…” because it reminds me of our icons, of the description of Moses, and because it is something we can see. Maybe there’s more to this “marked as Christ’s own” than we know.


  1. Where is the quoted section from? Peter France, too?

    • Yes of course. The attribution seemed obvious in my mind… but clearly I’ll need to get the page number and make it more transparent (tonight). Thanks!

  2. Hi! I understand this is kind of off-topic however I needed
    to ask. Does building a well-established blog like yours take a large amount of work?
    I’m completely new to blogging however I do write in my journal on a daily basis. I’d like
    to start a blog so I can easily share my personal experience
    and views online. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or tips for new aspiring blog owners.

    Appreciate it!

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