10 Differences between a Nice Guy and a Good Man

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It always amazes me—the toxic pull a “bad boy” image has on the hearts of women, especially on the young and naive. But as we mature, we should recognize the danger of being drawn to this type of personality. We see what once looked like the promise of a passionate love affair quickly degrades into verbally, emotionally, or even physically abusive relationships, reminding us that it is not our love but God alone who can save the dark and brooding soul.

There is another type of man out there whose patterns of living can also lead a godly woman to live in a less dangerous but still dissatisfying relationship. His ways are much more covert and are often unintentional. He thinks he is doing the right thing. He speaks no ill will. He lets others’ needs supersede his own, but his ways are not always godly. He is the guy everyone calls sweet, polite, and considerate—he is the nice guy, but he is not the good guy.

These 10 character markers can help you to discern whether you are dealing with a nice man, or a good man—a godly man.

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    1. He Is Forgiven

    A good man knows he cannot be good apart from Jesus. It is only the sacrificial death and atonement of Christ that can impart goodness, and impute righteousness to an individual born into a fallen and broken world. Jesus himself knew that to call someone good meant to equate them with God. He told the rich man in Mark 10:18, “No one is good—except God alone.” Not one soul is good apart from God, because only through Christ is righteousness given. The Holy Spirit imparts goodness to those he indwells. Hints of the character of God can come from those who do not believe, because all of humanity was created in the image of God. However, a nice man who does not see his need for the gospel is far from good; his sin will plague his soul until the healing power of Christ’s finished work is applied to his life.

    Good men have seen the depravity of their own sin and humbly acknowledge that only the light of Christ can deal with their darkness.

    Biblical example: Peter the apostle denied Jesus three times when Jesus was on his way to the cross. Shame threatened to overtake Peter, but after the resurrection Jesus lovingly restored him and Peter was able to live out the rest of his days forgiven; not just for his betrayal but for all the past, present, and future sins that he would commit during his life. He boldly preached the gospel, stood up to those in opposition to the gospel, and even penned Scripture. Peter knows intimately our need for forgiveness, “‘He [Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed’”  (2 Peter 2:24).

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    2. He Is Forgiving

    Not only does a good man know the power of living forgiven, but he knows how to forgive. There is a recognition in his life that because he has been shown grace and mercy, he should extend that to others as well. A nice man can still hold a grudge, but in the soil of the good man’s heart, you will find no bitter roots growing. He keeps no records of wrongs committed against him, but chooses to trust that God is at work.

    Biblical example: Joseph probably could have been a bit wiser in his youth, but as he was sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused of sexual assault, and wrongly imprisoned, he still knew God was with him. Years after his brothers sold Joseph to human traffickers, Joseph said to his brothers, “‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them” (Genesis 50:19-21).

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    3. He Does Not Live in Fear of Man

    Nice guys tend to avoid stepping on the toes of others, but men who know the goodness of God know they must walk justly and rightly, and sometimes that means doing things others will find offensive. Truth is important to this man, and he will not let the idol of others’ opinions hinder his love for God. He will boldly obey his Lord even if it would mean making an unpopular choice.

    Biblical example: Stephen was told to stop proclaiming the gospel... or else. He chose the latter and preached even more. With passion and action, his life proclaimed, ”I will fear no man, I will only fear my God,” (Acts 7:59-60) gives us a glimpse of his deep character in his final words, “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

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    4. He Is Saturated in Scripture

    The Bible has long been called the Good Book for good reason. It contains the words of a good God and helps his children to know his character. A man who does not seek after the character of God in the word of God will always be lacking all God has for him.

    Biblical example: Joshua was given the monumental task of leading the Israelites into the promised land, but God did not leave him without instruction. God says in Joshua 1:7-8“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”

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    5. He Is a Man of Prayer

    A man can be nice and still absent of any time before the throne. Any man who is living a faith-dependent life will pursue what is humanly impossible, and he will seek God to make it possible. He will pray for salvation for his loved ones, for supernatural healing of those who are sick, and divine protection for those he loves. He will seek God earnestly and ask for Jesus to shape his character; most importantly, he will pray for the glory of God to be put on display in his life.

    Biblical example: In the article 4 Things We Can Learn about Prayer from Elijah, Dena Johnson Martin rightly says,“Elijah prayed boldly for God-sized miracles. Elijah didn’t mess around with small requests for God. He went straight to big requests. Pray for a drought in the land. Raise the widow’s son from the dead. Call down fire from heaven to consume the offering on Mount Carmel.”

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    6. He Suffers Well

    At best, when faced with suffering, a nice man will just hold on to the point of exhaustion, trying to ‘grin and bear it.’ A good man can be afraid, angry, and filled with sorrow when suffering makes an unwelcome appearance. What matters is what he does with those emotions when they threaten to overtake him. God will use them to shape a man, but the question remains: Will the man take them to God, ask for help, and obey the truths of God anyway, or does he allow himself to be swept away by those emotions and become ruled by his flesh instead of the spirit?

    Biblical example: Paul learned the secret of being content and rejoicing in the midst of suffering, then he taught others how to do the same. In Romans 5:3-5 Paul says, “but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

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    7. He Is Generous

    When every good gift comes from God a good man knows he is but a steward of what God has given him. His eyes are open for where and when God might call on him to give his time, strengths, and possessions to those in need, and to further the kingdom of God. A nice guy might be generous but the why of his generosity is the difference here. A good man’s life is lived with the acknowledgment that he has been blessed beyond what he deserves, and his generosity is birthed by that understanding.

    Biblical example: “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:36-37). Barnabas gave possessions but also encouragement. He knew he need not hoard even a single mite because he belonged to God who would supply his every need.

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    8. He Remembers God

    Life can be distracting. Even the good deeds that we seek to do can draw us away from God, when they become the foundation for our righteousness instead of Jesus. When we allow our nice acts to become bigger to us than God, we have left all goodness behind. A good man will remember God in all his ways. He will seek the beauty of the Lord, he will be thankful, and he will keep his eyes open for how God is moving day in and day out. Having an attitude of humility and an awareness of his own fallibility, he will become one who tells of the goodness of God.

    Biblical example: David was a man who was hunted, a man who failed, and a man who fought, but most importantly 1 Samuel 13:14 tells us he was a man after God’s own heart. David wrote many of the Psalms which are full of praise to the Lord for the things he has done, is doing, and will do. They are songs and poetry that help us remember our great God, I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2).

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    9. He Knows Whose Love Is Most Important

    A nice man might not be willing to say to his girlfriend, wife, or mother, “I love Jesus more than I love you.” But a good man will know that Jesus is his first love. There will be no questioning that. He is secure with loving God first and foremost.

    Biblical example: In the gospel of John, John consistently referred to himself as the disciple that Jesus loved. He knew who he is and whose love is most important; it may have irritated the other disciples, but a man need not be ashamed of being loved by Jesus.

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    10. He Wants to Be Like Jesus

    There is no better example of good character in the Scriptures than Jesus. He is goodness personified and any man who is good will be a man who seeks to be like Christ. They may not do it perfectly, but when they fail, they only draw nearer to God. When they succeed they will give thanks to God. And in their relationships they will know to hold to the wisdom from Philippians 2:5-7: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

    Chara Donahue is a co-author of the Bible study 1, 2 & 3 John: Experiencing Transformation and is working on her next book. She enjoys serving as a biblical counselor, speaking to women, and savoring coffee when her four kids are out playing with dad. She holds an MSEd from Corban University, is passionate about seeing people set free through God's truths, and is the founder and editor of Anchored Voices. Get in touch with her on Facebook or Twitter.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Motortion

    Chara Donahue is a co-author of the Bible study 1, 2 & 3 John: Experiencing Transformation and is working on her next book. She enjoys serving as a biblical counselor, speaking to women, and savoring coffee when her four kids are out playing with dad. She holds an MSEd from Corban University, is passionate about seeing people set free through God's truths, and is the founder and editor of Anchored Voices. She is also the host of the podcast The Bible Never Said That, which you can listen to on LifeAudio.com. Get in touch with her on Facebook or Twitter.