Are Often Not Good People and
Are Often Not Nice People
We live in a culture in which being a
nice person is considered tantamount to being a good person. The result is that many nice people are mistaken for
fine human beings, when, in fact, they haven’t earned this distinction due to their serious character defects.
On the other hand, many really good people are mistaken for having serious character defects
just because they aren’t the nicest people around. So what makes a good person? “A good head and a good heart,”
Nelson Mandela reminded us, “are always a formidable combination.”
No doubt at times it’s hard for a lot of us to differentiate between the good guys and the bad
guys. We have a hard time determining who are great friends
and who are not-so-good friends. Sometimes knowing can help
us separate friends and
A friend of mine, for instance, is not the nicest person in the eyes of his friends and
acquaintances. He is direct and often upsets others by telling the truth about events, people, and things.
Yet my best friend is one of the most generous individuals when it comes to giving money or
other help to friends, panhandlers, and others in need. Contrast this with many so-called nice people who seldom go
out of their way to help other individuals — particularly those in need.
The reality that nice people often are not good people and good people often are not nice people
is a major disconnect for many of us. We want everyone to be nice because this is a lot easier to take than having
people be direct, rude, or angry with us.
Fact is, niceness is a facade that many individuals lacking exemplary character use for ulterior
motives. Some of the nicest-appearing people are desperate for affection from others. Certain psychiatrists and
psychologists claim that behind the nice-guy facade there usually lurks considerable repressed anger — waiting to
be transformed into despicable acts against others.
The core of the matter is that we have to be on guard with many nice people. We can allow them
to get by on charisma for only so long. After that, they better show some endearing character traits.
Clearly, many people are nice so that they can distract us to take advantage of us. They will
try to get in front of us in a lineup or entice us into the biggest scam the world has ever seen.
People seeking to con others out of money or anything else invariably project themselves as a
model of virtue. Your making a snap decision about their character based on their niceness can lead to serious
consequences and disillusionment later on.
At the extreme you may find nice people who steal from senior citizens, commit sex crimes, or
murder their relatives — not exactly the epitome of sterling character. How often have you heard others declare,
“He seemed so nice all the time,” when describing someone who has just assaulted, or even killed, someone?
Good people, on the other hand, are not nice all the time. In his renowned study of
self-actualized individuals, researcher and humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow found that people at the highest
level of psychological development aren’t the most pleasant humans whom you will encounter. Contrary to
expectations, self-actualized people aren’t calm individuals. Indeed, temper outbursts are common.
Unlike nice people, self-actualized human beings can be constructively critical of others when
the need is there. Because they don’t pretend to be something they aren’t, these good people aren’t pleasing to
everyone all of the time. Although they are generally very tolerant of others, self-actualized individuals are
likely to create a big scene when people engage in insincerity, dishonesty, or stupidity.
If you want to surround yourself with great friends who possess great character, who
will support you in making a difference in this world, don’t overlook the good people just because they aren’t nice
all the time.
Many good people have insecurities; they get angry and they may even get dejected about life.
You will have to put up with their occasional anger, impatience, and disgust because they will not tolerate lying,
cheating, inconsideration, or hypocrisy. Nonetheless, their honesty, sincerity, decency, goodness, wisdom, and
consideration will make you realize that you are in great company.
This World — Including You
and Me — Is Selfish
As is to be expected, a large majority of
individuals on this planet see themselves as a lot less selfish than the average individual including many of their
friends. Upon close scrutiny, however, this doesn’t make much sense. Provided it was possible to measure
selfishness, about half of the people would be more selfish than the average person, and about half of the people
would be less selfish.
The point is, it is impossible for a large majority to be less selfish than the average person.
There is no need to measure selfishness, however. Truth be known, everyone in this world — including you and me —
Some people may have some difficulty with the idea that they are just as selfish as everyone
else on this planet. We like to think there are selfless and selfish people on the two extremes. A lot of us would
like others to think of us as being selfless instead of selfish. What’s more, most of us — out of our own
selfishness, I might add — would also like others to be less selfish.
Have you ever noticed that certain people will call you selfish, not for pursuing your own good,
but for neglecting something that they want from you? There is a major disconnect here. The question is: Whenever
they are calling you selfish in an attempt to get something from you, what is motivating them?
Obviously, their motivation is none other than their own selfishness. Oscar Wilde articulated
this point much more eloquently than I ever could with his classic statement: “Selfishness is not living as one
wishes to live; it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.”
Contrary to popular wisdom, whenever we do things for others, we are motivated by our
selfishness. Some unknown wise person once defined altruism as “the art of doing unselfish things for selfish
reasons.” Put another way, we all are generous in a self-serving way.
For instance, I donate money to charities and the food bank out of selfishness and not
selflessness. I make these donations because I want the world to work better. What’s more, I feel good about giving
to others. I am driven by my selfishness to have the world work better in the long term, at the expense of having
less money for myself. There is absolutely nothing selfless about my generosity.
We can turn to the dictionary definitions of “selfish” and “selfless” to put this issue in
proper perspective. “Selfless” is commonly defined as “Having, exhibiting, or motivated by no concern for
Clearly, based on this definition, no one with a sane mind is selfless. Having no concern for
oneself is a sign of severe mental illness — or rigor mortis. If we were selfless, we wouldn’t snap up that great
deal on the apartment or car or an item of clothing. We would say, “There are undoubtedly millions of people who
need this more than I do. Since I am so caring and unselfish, I better leave it for one of them.”
In the same vein, dictionaries commonly define “selfish” as “Concerned chiefly or only with
oneself.” Thus, everyone of sane mind on this planet must be selfish. The core of the matter is that, on some level
or another, we are all concerned chiefly with ourselves.
When we do things for others, we are ultimately doing those things for ourselves. Our motivation
for performing good deeds for others can be to avoid guilt, to feel good about ourselves, to have others like us
more, to make the world work better, or to get to Heaven.
Now don’t freak out. Your selfishness is neither bad nor good. Accept it for what it is. Ensure
that your selfishness is sensible and not irrational, however. Operating with the attitude “This is my world. This
is all about me, myself, and I” will probably manifest itself as irrational selfishness when most people end up
In contrast, out of sensible selfishness, you can be kind, gentle, charitable, and considerate.
Being a Good Samaritan will have a positive effect on your well-being. You will feel good about yourself, people of
good character will want to be your friends, and the world will work better in the end. Best of all, you will
likely wind up in Heaven.
Note: These three
friendship articles are excerpted from the book101
Really Important Things You Already Know But Keep Forgettingby Ernie J.
When Someone —
Including a Best Friend —
Fails to Keep
a Commitment, There Is a 95
That It Will Happen Again
A scorpion, who wants to get across a
pond, spots a friendly frog. The scorpion says to the frog, “How about a lift to the other side of the pond? I
can’t swim and I would appreciate your helping me out.”
The frog replies, “No way. I know what scorpions are like. You promised not to sting me one time
in the past when I gave you a lift. Yet you didn’t keep your commitment and stung me. I almost died. This time
you’ll probably sting me halfway across the pond, from where I won’t be able to swim to shore. I don’t want to
The scorpion counters, “Don’t be silly. If I am on your back, I am dependent on you to get
across the pond. If I sting you, I will drown too. Why would I want to do that?” The frog thinks a bit and relents:
“I guess you’re right. Hop on.”
The scorpion climbs on the frog’s back and they take off for the other side of the pond. Halfway
across, the scorpion gives the frog a big whopper of a sting. As both of them start to go under, the frog says to
the scorpion, “Why in the world did you do that? Why didn’t you keep your commitment not to sting me? Now both of
us are going to die.”
The scorpion’s answer is one you have heard many times before from human scorpions: “I couldn’t
resist it. It’s just my nature to be that way.”
The lesson here is that if someone has failed to keep a commitment with you in the past, there
is a 95 percent chance that he or she will fail to keep a commitment with you again in the future. This is a hard
lesson for most of us to learn. In fact, many of us keep relearning this lesson throughout our entire lives, while
experiencing a lot of frustration and disappointment.
You will notice that people who back out of business deals or social commitments tend to do it
again and again and again. This behavior is best explained by two phenomena previously discussed — people are only
human and people seldom change.
Human nature is such that even if people have apologized for a past transgression, and promised
that they wouldn’t do it again, they will likely do it again. You have to decide what is the best way to respond to
people who don’t keep commitments.
Incidentally, the 95 percent chance that they will do it again applies even when they have
offered an apology without your asking for one. When you have demanded an apology, and they have complied, then
there is a 99 percent chance they will do it again. These are roughly the same odds as when they haven’t
The reason is that an apology demanded under some threat — such as you will terminate your
friendship or business relationship if they don’t apologize — is a form of blackmail. Put another way, an apology
demanded from another person using some form of threat is never a true apology.
The person may apologize for the transgression — but the apology is false. Fact is, a true
apology — one that means something and comes from the heart — is made by a person without anyone else demanding
Personally, I refrain from dealing with people who regularly cop out of business or social
commitments — whether or not they apologize. I don’t need the hassles and aggravation. Whenever people continue to
fail to show up for meetings, I don’t contact them again.
If they call to apologize with a good reason, I give them one more chance, and possibly two
chances — but three strikes and they are out. By following this principle, without any exceptions, I end up with a
few quality people who are good at keeping commitments.
In short, if a person has let you down before, be on guard when he tells you he will come
through on another occasion. Whether it’s a business deal or a social engagement, no matter how enticing and
promising, it’s best to focus your interests elsewhere. Otherwise, you will find out the hard way that the first
transgression was no accident.
In fact, if you hang around him long enough, chances are fairly high that he will outdo his
previous transgression with something so much worse that it makes the previous one seem insignificant. As the old
saying goes, “The person who steals an egg from his farmer friend will eventually steal the chicken as
Check out the funny friendship
quotes and friendship
proverbs as well as the importance of
ALL ARTICLES COPYRIGHT © 2011
by Ernie J. Zelinski
Author of The World's Best
All Rights Reserved