Who’s a great guy?

It’s a question worth asking because I have often heard, “He’s a great guy,” and inside I panic because I’m thinking, “What have I missed?”, “Why doesn’t he show me that great-guy side?” and “I must not be a great guy because I don’t spend enough time with great guys.”

The phrase is mostly uttered about people we hardly know — someone we met who is running for office, someone who makes a lot of money. Great Guys often end up in jail, but, by that time, everyone remembers questioning their Great-Guyhood from the beginning.  It is convenient to think of potentially powerful allies as great guys, great or not.

Of course, it is charitable to label one’s own friends as great guys, but are they, really? All mine are, and they have all these attributes of the Great Guy in common:

They tell excellent stories with just enough drama and humor to make you forget where you are.  They never tell a story more than once, and they never beat the same drums in conversation.

They are always exploring new ideas, and they grasp a wide range of subjects outside their expertise.  They are truly interested in how other people spend their lives because they regard other lives as paths they have missed.

Really concerned
They don’t wait for their friends to call;  they periodically call or write to check in.  If some life-changing event happens, they are physically there for you.

Balanced reasoning
They search for the truth;  they are not driven strictly by tribal, political or monetary agendas.  If something strikes them as true but conflicts with their worldview, they want to understand it.

They have a deep appreciation for the absurd.

They feel sympathy more strongly than hatred.  Nothing can cause them to discount another human being.  They are the champions of the second chance.

Fact based
In every circumstance, and especially bad ones, they check facts.  They do not believe rumors, or even that “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Beyond the ordinary
They look for clues in odd places, and can make interesting observations about the truth.

Never give up
They get up quickly.  Sometimes they need to complain, but, in their complaining, they ask, how much of this was my fault and what can I do about it?

They are open about their desires, regrets, strengths and weaknesses.  Many faux “Great Guys” are really just guys who never say much about themselves, and so we are left to project upon a blank canvas.

They are not easily threatened because they are confident of their own value, and of the absurdity of too highly valuing most of the things that can be used against us.

Good conversationalist
Between fascinating stories of their own, they are able to draw out other people, to make them shine and to be their best in the group.

They want nothing else from the relationship.
They see the friendship as an end in itself, not as a means to an end.

Thankfully, all my friends are great guys, and so I hardly have time during the week to accomplish my work.  Nevertheless, they make living a joy, and I try to do the same for them.

Published in: on August 8, 2009 at 4:53 am  Leave a Comment  

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