Dyed All Hues

Thinker and Experimenter,


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How can overly empathetic/sympathetic people compete in this world? Do they eventually end up jaded and bitter?

The saying goes "nice guys finish last". I interpret that "nice" means overly empathetic/sympathetic people who sacrifice themselves for others happiness. Kindness seems to be a sign of weakness in that saying, as though people prey on those kind-hearted people. If it were true, then how do kind people compete in this world? Is it some kind of evolutionary Yin and Yang, where a balance of certain personalities need to exist for progress to happen or do people have peaks and troughs of kindness in them?

Update: Thought I'd share a fascinating article found in the comments below:


It is about the differences between being nice and being kind.

Closing Statement from Dyed All Hues

Thank you all for your well thought comments. I have learned a lot and I hope you've all taken some knowledge from this as well.

Be mindful of those around you and tread lightly on the paths made by your brothers and sisters of humankind.

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      Jan 23 2013: Couldnt have responded to this subject any better than this!! Thanks.

      Be nice and do good for your own sake. Not to attain the approval and supreme satisfaction of others.
      Yes, being "overly" empathetic/sympathetic will leave a person with more disappointments.
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        Jan 24 2013: So, Maaher, if a person is disappointed, it is because of empathy/compassion/sympathy given with expectations of something in return? Perhaps then it is not genuine empathy/compassion!
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          Jan 25 2013: No Colleen, being "Overly" empathetic and Sympathetic will lead to disappointment. And the dissapointment is not due to the expectations in return but it could be due to disregard and disrespect for the efforts you may express by being so. Some people behave in a way that insults and disrespects your empathy/sympathy and compassion. Thus...
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        Jan 26 2013: Maaher,
        Personally, I do not perceive a possibility of "overly" empathetic, because there are many levels of compassion/empathy, and I do not perceive sympathy (with elements of pity/regret) as very useful. I think/feel that compassion/empthy is good....sympathy/regret/pity...not useful.

        You say..."And the dissapointment is not due to the expectations in return but it could be due to disregard and disrespect for the efforts you may express by being so. Some people behave in a way that insults and disrespects your empathy/sympathy and compassion. Thus... ".

        If a person disregards, disrespects, insults our offering of compassion/empathy, that looks to me like a person is not reacting as we "expect" him/her to react.

        I personally reject sympathy, because I see no reason for anyone to feel pity or regret for me. My perception of the life adventure is that everything is an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve, so I see no reason for sympthy, pity, regret.
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      Jan 25 2013: Hey Mike,

      Anyways is a very popular poem.......do you know the original author?.........because a while back we had a conversation on TED about it.

      Here is the link to the information. Enjoy


      I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
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          Jan 25 2013: 14 years ago when a psychologist friend of mine shared this poem with me, she attributed it to Mother Theresa also.

          Then, one day, while wanting to print it out, I googled it, and lo and behold, I discover its true author.

          Kent Keith's writing is like Steven Covey's......his books are pretty easy to read, and very upbuilding.
    • Jan 25 2013: Beautiful response, Mike

      I think in essence, truly kind and gentle people also benefit from who they are.
      It's not about money or reputation, but unlike others' shallow, pretentious kindness, their heart is filled with pure joy of helping others and forgiving them.
      I'd say they are free from futile greediness.
      Seemingly, they appear to be weak, but they are indeed strong.
      They don't fall behind others, but they excel in being who they are.
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    Jan 16 2013: Selfishness is like a jail; there is no life worth living without love. Those who are overly empathetic and sympathetic are the kind of a wise man, who loved to the extent of giving his life, and was raised up to life.

    Love is a way to life, and your sacrifice tells a lot about your love.
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      Jan 17 2013: Feyisayo, I share with you one of my favorite passages: 1 Corinthians 13:11 thru 13:13.

      The answer is of course that we know and accept who we are. Only then can I be at peace within. It is not either easy or convient to practice our beliefs or to chose what we consider to be the right. Those who end up either jaded or bitter have lost the courage of their convictions.

      I wish you well. Bob.
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        Jan 17 2013: Bob, when one is young and sympathetic, it can be a struggle to practice ones convictions in the work place, and even in the family, when the others are constantly making an effort to demoralize us, and make us feel unworthy.

        At times, even individuals who are "supposedly" kind and sympathetic people want to be "MORE" kind and sympathetic than the rest and can end up competing with others in this regard.

        It takes time, and alot of discernment and observation of human nature, as well as meditating upon our own motivations for acting one way or another to come to a balance and not end up jaded or bitter.

        I really liked the statement you made that we have to know and accept who we are.

        The knowing who we are is one thing. The accepting takes a bit longer. I think perhaps that is where the question above comes from.....the struggle to once and for all accept that you are a sincere person and kind, and that you will have to be true to your convictions no matter what.

        Alot of us have had this struggle, and some of us continue to have it, sometimes on a daily basis.

        It's encouraging to talk to others who can empathize with this situation.

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          Jan 18 2013: Mary, your comment is inspiring, I would dare to even say, inspiring to the masses. =)
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          Jan 19 2013: Mary, For me this was made possable after I turned 70. I was a very competative person in the job force and in the sports area.

          The fire is not out .. but no longer roars ... it is steady and comforting.

          Thanks for your reply.

          I wish you well. Bob.
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      Jan 18 2013: Feyisayo, does sacrifice mean for all or sacrifice only for the ones who a person deems as deserving of it?
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        Jan 18 2013: Sacrifice for those who are loved would not be the same as those who one just considers deserving of help or not; there are different levels of sacrifice which becomes benefitial if one is guided by wisdom.
        Jesus died for humanity; no other sacrifice of this kind is needed for the forgiveness of sin.
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        Jan 18 2013: Derek, when it comes to sacrifice, empathy, and general giving, like Feyisayo said, wisdom is required to know when and where, and with whom to step in. And when you do step in and try to help, and things don't go as you expected, learn to forget and move on.

        I remember a while back having breakfast at a hotel while on vacation.

        I was observing a young lady making waffles using the machine that dispenses the waffle mix, you know, the kind where you then take the mix and pour it in a hot cast iron waffle maker with a self-timer.

        I was also observing an older woman with her grandkids looking at what the young lady was doing.

        When the young lady put her batter in the waffle maker, the older woman then begins to attempt to get her batter into a cup, but fails. So, the young lady instructs her on how to release the batter.

        The older woman, without looking up or thanking the young lady presses a lever, and batter starts to come out. HOWEVER, she did not keep her hand on the lever, and the batter was approaching the top of the cup and was going to spill.......so, the young lady says, "you need to lift up the lever, otherwise your cup will run over and batter will go everywhere".

        At that moment, the older woman decides to lift her head and actually look at the young lady for the first time, and out poured her words........rotten words, unappreciative words, words to stab at the heart..................she spits out, "If I make a mess then it's my problem!"

        At that moment I wanted to get up from my seat and tell that older woman a thing or two, but I just sat there observing, waiting to see what the young lady would do. And you know what the young lady did?

        She smiled and walked away Derek.

        She walked straight to my table and sat down.

        She then said, "Mom, I can't do anything about people like that. I did what I knew was the right thing to do, now it's over, and I have to move on and not think about it"

        There is a lesson in there somewhere. Can you find it?
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          Jan 19 2013: I've got it Mary! The batter is more useful inside the waffle cooker. Ha, the true lesson is that it is better to remove yourself from pointless confrontations or at least retreat for now to find a more just battle. =)
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    Jan 16 2013: Empathetic and sympathetic people can continue to do their good works on a scale where they can be effective and do not need at all to end up jaded and bitter. They make a difference for others through their efforts and can feel through it that they are living meaningful lives true to their values. On the other hand, perhaps someone who knows the specifics about bullying can tell us whether they are more likely to be bullied. Purely anecdotal evidence suggests to me that at least in the case of female bullies, more sensitive people are more likely to be targeted.
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      Jan 18 2013: I know of a person who has a family that sacrifices so much for the well being of their children, but the person seems to not better their own life, though speaking from experience, bullies target the sensitive people, but it appears they don't feel any better after usually. Why spread unhappiness if it saddens them? Life is strange, the more you see, the less you know.
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    Jan 28 2013: It is absolutely NOT true that overly empathetic / sympathetic people finish last. They typically have more friends, better support systems and many more meaningful relationships. There are very few downsides to being nice - for the most part being nice is reciprocated, so your sacrifice, on average is more than repaid - and this in addition to the satisfaction that you get from helping others.

    Nice men are very popular with women, and those exceptions are not appreciated because they are not nice, but rather despite the fact that they are not nice - often because their particular style of not being nice demonstrates remarkable courage, independence, originality or whatever. (I'm not referring to mistreatment of women and dependence in relationships, which is a more complex phenomenon).

    The confusion arises because many people who class themselves as "nice" are not so much nice as weak - they behave in a certain way not because of a strong inner desire to help, but because it is the route of least resistance. And people can see this. The difference is like night and day.

    A truly nice person will not just offer to share his chocolate or let you into the lane when you are entering from a small side-street. He will also aggressively confront a bully, he will NOT let you into the lane in front of him if you're blatantly just trying to skip past the other cars. A nice person will confront you if you make a racist remark. Because he is driven to help and to do what is right, rather than by the desire to please at all costs.

    Being a truly nice person takes a LOT of courage - but those who achieve this are greatly admired in our society.
    Women do not find "nice guys" like this to be boring at all. They do find the weak stereotypical "nice guy" boring, because he's not so much nice as "pathetic" ...
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      Jan 28 2013: Denis,
      I agree with most of what you write, and you bring an interesting element into the conversation with your statement..."The confusion arises because many people who class themselves as "nice" are not so much nice as weak - they behave in a certain way not because of a strong inner desire to help, but because it is the route of least resistance. And people can see this."

      I wholeheartedly agree with you that people can often intuit intention, and if it doesn't "feel" good, authentic or genuine, they/we may reject what is being offered. So it is important to know our own intent.

      Did you see this article....link provided on this discussion thread by Sarah Taylor? I'd be interested in your perception/comments. We now have "nice", "kind", "weak" to consider. I tend to think weak/insecure with intent to please may be behind the feeling of bitterness when inauthentic sympathy/compassion/empathy is offered.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/marcia-sirota/too-nice_b_946956.html .
  • Jan 20 2013: Dear Derek,

    Thank you for raising such a thought provoking question.

    In addition to the many thoughtful comments here, I would like to humbly contribute my thoughts on the question.

    I think if one wants to win a race, practising is the best way to go. Neither kindness nor unkindness correlates with winning or losing a race as much as practising does. Kind people win races all the time, and the same is also true for unkind people.

    If we choose to live kindly or unkindly just so we can win the endless races and competitions ahead of us, I think we have made a big mistake. We would still lose and maybe all the more because of that one decision. It's very hard to account for all the losses and gains in the numerous races that we have, will, and are running. The so-called winners and so-called losers, who can really tell how many things they have lost and gained along with their winnings and losings. It's utterly ignorant to think that you have never lost or never gained anything.

    If being kind doesn't guarantee winning or losing, why bother with kindness at all?

    The thing is we should be bothered about kindness, a great deal even. Because out of the billion things amazing about kindness, being kind is a source of strength and such strength enables kindness.

    Tales of impossible display of strength and kindness always circulate our world. See the middle age man who jumped into the rail tracks to yank another person out within seconds of collision. See the small little girl who stood up against a gang of bullies for her classmate. See the gentle mother who lifted into a burning house to save her baby, and numerous more. It was kindness that brought forth such strength and it was such strength that allowed such feats of kindness.

    As such, I believe that kindness isn't a weakness, it is above all a precious gift of life.
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      Jan 21 2013: Hi Simon,

      When I refer to competition, in my thoughts, I think of persons ability to raise a family, being able to provide a meal for yourself or family, fighting for issues one believes in without someone using slander to get to their goals, and general social environments among humans that involve people who convey honesty and those who spin information.

      I don't feel that everyone gets a chance to speak their minds and show who they really are with all the diluting thoughts that have been conjured by others that come from a place of fear instead of love, though, as you put it, practicing is the best way to go, but practice can only happen with others and people should try to understand that people can improve.

      I'm ultimately trying to say that everyone makes errors, but with support and reinforcement, they will hopefully not become jaded and/or bitter and become like some of the kind people I have come to know and love. =)
      • Jan 21 2013: Dear Derek,

        Our thoughts were aligned, what you just said was just what I had in mind when I wrote my comment.

        I think we, all of us, are beings who have to run the race of life. As far as this race goes, there is no winning and losing in it. We run as we must. We can neither win nor lose, the race is us, we are part of it, and we are all of it too.

        When we reach the end, it is up to us to choose whether we have lost or have won. The race itself doesn't see winners neither does it see losers. All it sees are people who have run its course, and are due for beyond its goal.

        This race is a tricky one. It throws things at us while we run. It randomly scars, scratches, and wounds us. Many make the choice to drop out... While most doesn't give up and keep running...

        Out of those who don't give up, many find their strength through kindness.

        They are the ones that shine through in this race. They make running with them feels better when there is no better in a race like this.

        Being kind is no easy task. I feel it deeply when you mentioned "fear". It is fear that kills kindness. Oxymoronically, it is also kindness that brings the strength to fight fear.

        Like you noted Derek, there will be times when kindness is treated as stupidity. There will be times when kindness is a commodity too expensive to afford. Even times when kindness is a taboo we must avoid at all cost.

        However, life is beautiful because if we can still hold on to kindness at those times, we will have won prizes beyond the race. The kind of prizes that the race can't offer. The kind of prizes that only kindness can offer. These prizes are the hidden marvelous treasures of life that are much more precious than the most expensive material things money can buy.

        Finally, through your words I feel that you have a kind heart Derek. Please let it shine through this harsh race we all must run.
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      Jan 30 2013: Dear Simon.....to build on what you have said so well........

      You ask..."If being kind doesn't guarantee winning or losing, why bother with kindness at all?"

      I think of the saying...."it is not a matter of winning or losing, but rather, how we play the game".

      In my humble perception, HOW we "practice" every moment of the life experience is often as important, or more important than the action/reaction we are "practicing". We can move through ANY and all actions/reactions with fear and unkindness in our hearts, OR, we can move through ANY and ALL actions, practices, and behaviors with love in our hearts and minds......including competition. We may not have a choice regarding certain situations in the life experience. We DO, however, have choices regarding HOW we will "BE" in that moment with our "self", and all those we interact with.

      You also write..."strength enables kindness", which I also wholeheartedly agree with. It is another one of the cycles that we can "practice" as you insightfully say.....strength enables kindness....kindness enables strength.....

      When we embrace this concept, we are "practicing" in the moment for the betterment of ourselves as individuals, and we are also contributing to the whole, so even when competing for something, we are recognizing the benefits to everyone involved. We see "competition" through the eyes of love, and as you insightfully say Simon...recognize the "hidden marvelous treasures of the life experience:>)
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    Jan 16 2013: Really, it's a great question. Ideally, one can be both kind and assertive.
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      Jan 17 2013: There is absolutely nothing wrong with being kind and assertive. I loved your reply!
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        Jan 20 2013: Thank you for your support Mary. If you feel like it, read my response to Derek below.
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        Jan 20 2013: Looking at your response below, Mary. It seems to me that one can do a lot of good in the process of looking out for oneself. Here's an example: For a while, I was getting too much noise from the loading dock of the market across the street when their big truck arrived with their food shipment and started unloading. After many conversations that I have had with them, they have managed to quiet down. I worked on this for my own sake because I didn't like the noise, but I believe it probably benefited the other neighbors because they also didn't have to listen to the noise, they just didn't know how to get the market to quiet down.
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      Jan 18 2013: I agree, but it is a journey, for some, to figure out the right balance. For someone who is overly empathetic/sympathetic, they only know to give and those who I know that are these type of people don't always end up feeling happy or wholesome. Those people seemed lost and with no one to show them the same kindness. My brief interactions with them are always filled with inspiration and pity because they have hopes and dreams that they feel can be lived within other people, though they seem empty, but trying to understand them is difficult and can be a roller-coaster, which I have since been keen to frequent less. It pains me to see them and I often want to do more, but I do not yet have that ability, though I wish someday I can. =)
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        Jan 19 2013: I was also thinking that sometimes peope need psychological help to deal with issues in their past.

        A person could be so needy for attention and affection, that giving of themselves and letting themselves be bullied and taken advantage of seems to be the only way they can get it.

        The person you are describing could have some serious issues which you might not be aware of.

        You seem to be very observant Derek. Perhaps just leading by example, might be the help that person needs. If all else fails, just be a friend to them......I'm sure they'll appreciate it. :)
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          Jan 19 2013: I might be observant, but unfortunately I do not hold the knowledge of how to help, like what is the right balance or such. I've become the person that tries to be helpful from afar, while avoiding all the firing neurons that entails on each individual's journey. At times, I become squeamish and unfortunately distance myself completely from those types of people, for some have walked along destructive paths and I don't want to be their wingman during all that.

          Someone I know once said "everyone needs some therapy" and I believe it to be true, but just everyone needs different degrees of help. I still have hope, but so many have lost it, so I try to spread when I can because someone kind enough did the same for me once upon a time. =)
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        Jan 20 2013: Yeah, one can be kind and assertive. When one does a kind act, it's positive to be crisp about it. Get in there, do the kind act, get it done, and move on.

        Also, a kind act generally should be a win-win. For example, I once went into a rest home and asked if anyone in the home needed some conversation. They took me to an old man's room, and he and I talked for an hour and a half. I felt it was kind on my part, but I also benefited because I learned a lot from talking to him.

        I wonder Derek if the people you perceive as overly helpful really are just helpful? When I was young I found my grandma too nice. Like if I came over it seemed to me she was asking me too many questions about what I wanted to eat. But when I look back now, I think she was just trying to make me happy.
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          Jan 20 2013: Several quotes popped into my head reading your response Greg.

          * There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.

          * You have two hands, one for helping yourself, and one to help others.

          * Those who give should quickly forget what they've done, those who receive, never.

          I really have enjoyed reading everyone's comments on this conversation.
          Each time I come back to it and read the new posts I think, Wow! that is so well expressed........there's alot of good advice for Derek, and lots for him to chew on.
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          Jan 21 2013: It takes a community to build an individual, it seems. All the comments are much appreciated and definitely a lot to chew on, but the different flavors is the best part. Thank you. =)
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    Jan 16 2013: Hi Derek!

    Listen, why compete at all?

    I take "nice guys finish last" to mean that usually a nice person will "yield" to others.

    It's like being in rush hour traffic and coming to an intersection where drivers are trying to merge into your lane.
    If you are a nice guy, and you "yield" to the next vehicle, who will be first?
    The other vehicle right? You will be behind right?

    But does this mean that you won't be able to get home, or that you will lose an astronomical amount of time for "yielding the right of way"? Of course not.

    Even when you finish last, you still finish right?

    And, if you are last, you are able to clearly see what those in front of you are doing from your good vantage point.....perhaps even avoiding pit falls in the road.

    I think it is the same in life.

    I know that it is hard for kind people to be appreciated in today's competitive world, but it is important to really trust your instincts when it comes to being true to yourself. And not change who you are down deep inside just because others are competitive and mean.

    As for ending up jaded and bitter.......lots of competitive people end up jaded and bitter, I don't think ending up this way is a mutually exclusive end to empathetic people..........I would imagine that the kindhearted and sympathetic individuals live the happier life, even though it might be a more modest and simple one.

    Good to talk to you again!

    [Edited to add this link] I think you will benefit from this talk:

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      Jan 18 2013: Hi Mary!

      It has been too long I feel! Yes, traffic is a good example! Especially living in a city, traffic can be a butcher. =P

      I loved the video, thanks! =)
  • Jan 30 2013: I think it best to consider that empathy is only one determining factor in how you "compete" in life.In any instance it is best to look at empathy as being on a spectrum. You do not either "have it" or "not have it". One end of the spectrum makes for a highly empathetic/sympathetic person and we all know what is on the other end.
    Where you end up happiness wise is up to the individual and is not quantifiable nor should it be comparable.
    Just be awarewho you are dealing with.
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      Jan 30 2013: I agree Kieron, and will add...

      The first person we are "dealing with" is our "self". So it is important to "Know thyself", as well as knowing the "other" person as much as possible. Having genuine compassion/empathy for ourselves, helps the process of reaching out to others with authentic/genuine compassion and empathy.
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    Jan 29 2013: Hi Genevieve,
    I suppose it's a strange case of empathy. I fully agree with everything you wrote, yet I still empathise with Lance a bit, because I have seen over the past 10 years how the net has been slowly closing in on him but never leaving him an easy way out. There was never a moment when he had the option to say "OK, I admit, I took drugs like everyone else" and get away with a 2-year suspension - they were determined to hang him as an example to all. So he's been kind of forced into this position of holier-than-thou denial which I'm sure he never wanted - and then when his fall comes, it is all the more dramatic.
    My analogy is with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Bill did something wrong, but he was not the first to do so - however instead of it being a minor misdemeanour, the Republicans and Kenneth Starr managed to turn it into a much bigger issue without giving him the chance to get out of it. Again, no question that Clinton was morally wrong (just like Lance), but I look at that situation and I empathise with him.
    What it says about me that I empathise with people like that is probably something I should worry about :)
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    Jan 29 2013: Mood and behavior changes through life, through experiences they are related to the environment, conditions in which we live. Our personality will also depend on what we learn, empathy is present in humanity.

    It doesn't matter how much effort you make to see empathy as a weakness, it will never be.
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      Jan 30 2013: I honestly don't believe empathy is a weakness, but it seems to be the view of those jaded and bitter individuals I know of.

      Like Peter Parker's Uncle in Spider-Man says "With great power comes great responsibilities", and empathetic individuals need to know that it is an ability to be cherished and used, while others could benefit from being aware or equally empathetic to their empathizers.
  • Jan 28 2013: ...Empathy and sympathy are two different things...empathy makes you strong inside and sympathy helps others to travel through their difficult time...empathy belongs to understanding others and sympathy to just support...

    ...to me nothing can be overly in both...overly is the action taken, taking them as the basis...balance is only possible by doing the same with yourself...before taking decision be the same with yourself... create a similar empathy for yourself...see the things not from one end only...

    with regards
  • Jan 28 2013: What about the joy of giving to others and serving others, simply because you can... where one has the physical and financial capacity along with the time and opportunity. Like borrowing a tool from your neighbor, where you always return it in better condition than when you picked it up... leave the neighborhood and planet a better place because you were here. Consciousness, mobility, hands, feet, a mind with free-will, our senses, our incredible opportunities, health, leisure time... these things are a gift to us EVERY SINGLE DAY. They were not owed to us. Use them to better the world while you can.

    My oldest son was at a regional track-meet. The winner of a race between him (native-American/European) and an African-American, would go to nationals. They were equally matched. Coming out of the starting blocks, the black athlete got ahead of his feet and fell hard on his hands, knees and stomach. David went back to assist him amid the furious protesting screams of his coach and most of those in the stands. After helping him up and brushing off his knees, the two took off together, eventually into a dead sprint. AGAIN, the black athlete fell and Dave went back again to help him... and the screams that had just died down, EXPLODED! They took off together and it was basically a photo-finish.

    My youngest son was completing in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament and quickly got a position on his opponent where Jake could have easily reversed the other fellow's elbow. Carefully applying pressure, he realized that his opponent must have taken pain killers before the match or he would have submitted and Jake would take the #1 trophy. Instead of causing an injury that might plague his opponent's elbow in his senior years and the referee refusing to do his job and protect the athletes by stopping the match, Jake released him.

    I am blessed to have sons who fully understand that winning doesn't always mean "coming in first". I am extremely proud of my sons.
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      Jan 28 2013: Hi Don,
      I just wrote a comment about how competitiveness and empathy/compassion can co-exist. What wonderful examples you have provided....really beautiful:>)

      You are "extremely proud" of your sons, with very good reason. I bet your sons are very proud of their dad with good reason as well:>)
      • Jan 28 2013: Hello Colleen Steen 500+. (You don't even look 30.) Thank you for your very kind words. I just realized that I have never once wondered if they were proud of me. Their obvious capacities for, and demonstrations of love, respect, desire to help others achieve, tender interactions with their children, is what I desired to instill (amoung other facets), but with their being 32 and 40, I do think that the days when dad dazzled them, are in the past. It is their time to dazzle their little ones.
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          Jan 28 2013: Hello Don,
          30 huh? LOL! Actually, I am 30 x 2 +.............:>)

          And so the cycle goes.....we hopefully "dazzle" our kids with respect, compassion, empathy, kindness, desire to help others and tender interactions....who hopefully dazzle their kids....on and on it goes.........................
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  • Jan 28 2013: Empathy and sympathy lead to bitterness only if you have a subconscious ulterior motive and expectations of the outcome of your actions. If the act is truly selfless, then there is no disappointment. It's also necessary to understand that saying "No" in a loud, clear voice is often the greatest act of kindness that you can offer. We often acquiesce to gain approval, not because we're "nice guys". I suggest trying enlightened selfishness because the only other alternative is unenlightened selfishness.
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    Jan 19 2013: Hello again Derek:>)
    First of all, I don't think anyone can be "overly empathetic/sympathetic". I agree with Greg, that we can be both kind and assertive, and as with everything in the life adventure (IMHO), it is about finding the balance, as you insightfully recognize:>)

    How we demonstrate compassion/empathy may be the underlying factor? If a person is knowingly "sacrificing themselves for others happiness", it is important to recognize in him/herself if s/he has expectations or not. If we give something to others (empathy/sympathy/compassion) freely, without expectations of anything given back to us, that is a choice we make, and people can only take advantage of it if we continue with the same behavior.

    Yes, people may take advantage of kind hearted people, and as soon as we recognize people taking advantage of us, we have the ability to alter our actions and/or feelings in ourselves....yes?

    Did you ever hear the saying...
    Fool me once, bad on you...fool me twice...bad on me......or something like that? We have the ability to learn from our experiences, and if we continue to allow people to take advantage of kindness, we can evaluate that situation in ourselves and decide if that is truly what we want. No one can take advantage of us unless we allow it.

    I don't ever perceive kindness as "weak", and in my perception, it is a wonderful strength. "Know Thyself". We are multi sensory, multi dimensional beings, and we can experience kindness, empathy, compassion, competitive, assertive, etc. all at the same time....or not.....it's a choice to recognize and experience that in our "self".....or not:>)
  • A Z

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    Jan 29 2013: The article and some people on this thread have been a bit one sided in their reasoning. I admit that I have the issue that many here have mentioned, that of being too nice and friendly, but out of a need to please, or to manipulate in order to get what I want. I've been conscious of this only for the past few years, and its a psychological disorder that I've realized I've had all my life, and it emerges in many aspects of my life. However, it did not stem from any malicious intent.

    It comes from a sense of powerlessness, shame, self-loathing, and deep wounds that came about during childhood.

    I've spent a significant amount of time reading about the issue, going to therapy for some time (this therapist wasn't helpful), and deep contemplation regarding how I react to people, why I react that way, and how my beliefs came to be.

    I was abused as a child. Not that I angrily blame my parents for my issues, but it is where it came from. But they were young at the time, knew no better how to raise a child, and hitting and beatings were commonplace where they are from. And different people react to abuse in different ways. Being "nice" was my coping mechanism.

    As a result of this, this is what I learned to believe:

    I'm not allowed to say no. I have no right to be angry. I shouldn't ask for anything (doing so would be a burden upon them). If anyone was angry with me, it was my fault. My opinions held no significance. If there was someone or something at school bothering me, I would be the one screamed at. "Don't talk too much." And it goes on.

    So at that point what is a 6/7 year old to do? I learned to shut up. But I did realize that I could win them over by doing things for them, thinking about what the needed, and being kind. It was my saving grace, my source of worth. And unfortunately beliefs learned when you're a child propagate through everything in your life.

    google 'no more mr nice guy' by dr robert glover. it was life changing for me.
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      Jan 29 2013: A Z,

      I am sorry that you had that experience as a young person, and I'm sure you know that many people, unfortunately, had similar challenges as children. Knowing that, does not minimize our own experience in any way. It does, however, give us a little background, which will hopefully help us understand and move on. We may not have had any control of the situation or our environment as children, and as intelligent insightful adults, we do have control over how we choose to use information. I agree that our past experiences are part of our life forever. However, as thinking, feeling adults, we have choices regarding how we use the information. Change starts with awareness, and it feels like you are very insightful and aware of many different aspects of the situation.

      Thanks for sharing your story, and my thoughts and loving energy are with you in your quest.
  • Jan 23 2013: The truth is that you and your sociopath have
    formed a symbiotic relationship. You may think
    you owe him nothing, but the relationship
    matters to the sociopath in ways you cannot
    guess or understand. You may think the
    sociopath respects your boundaries, but the sociopath will not be sympathetic to your
    assertions of your needs. The sociopath does not
    have or respect boundaries. The sociopath has his
    needs, too, and will fight to make sure that they
    are met. You do not want to get into an all-out
    fight with a sociopath when the sociopath feels like his survival is threatened. You will lose.
  • Jan 21 2013: Collen and Derek, glad you like the article! I hadn't looked up the definition of "nice" before either and now that I have I see that there are many different usages of the word. I think it's good to think about whether we want to be "nice" or "kind". :)
  • Jan 20 2013: The trouble with the idea, "Nice guys finish last" is that the phrase is often embraced by A-Holes to rationalize their own behavior.

    The truth is, Nice guys do just fine in life. The phrase would be more accurate if it were : "WIMPS finish last."
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    Jan 19 2013: I think we should focus on the word "overly". An "overly" unsympathetic person may be confronted with the same obstacles. I have always thought that balance is key. I try and achieve this on a daily basis. At this point I really do believe balance is a daily struggle. It is difficult to manage emotions sometimes. However, much of this comes with age and experience.

    I don't think we need to concern ourselves with other people taking advantage. Helping others isn't something we should be doing with some sort of expectation for reciprocation. Sometimes that just doesn't happen. Helping others, in my opinion, gives us a sort of external control. When we help another person it makes us feel capable and empowered. This may not be true for everyone, but generally I think the concept is valid.

    If people are taking advantage of you it may be caused by an unbalanced personality. Giving too much is not a good thing. It's kind of like the oxygen mask procedures on commercial air liners. "Put your own mask on first...you cannot help anybody if you are dead."

    "Nice guys finish last"

    This normally refers to relationships. I think the problem is we get all wrapped up in "getting the girl" that our personality becomes consumed by whatever it is we think the other people want. I can only speak from my own perspective so this may be wrong for everyone else.
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    Jan 28 2013: I somewhat agree and disagree to the statement that overly empathetic/sympathetic people finish last. There are some advantages and disadvantages to being one of these people. I believe that people who are overly empathetic/sympathetic can be easily seen as a target for those who are not, because of their open-mindedness and their gullibility. They easily trust people, open up to them, bond with them, and sacrifice themselves for them. Therefore, some take advantage of these people. However, I believe that a strong and key advantage that we should point out about these empathetic/sympathetic people is that they are surrounded and protected by people who truly love them. Those who are not one of the "predators," and who have gotten the chance to bond with these people tend to stand up for them because they get the urge to help them out. No, I don't think that they all eventually end up jaded and bitter. However, I believe that genuinely kind people who remain empathetic/sympathetic throughout their entire lives are rare and a miracle. I believe that it takes a lot of strength and courage to continuously remind themselves of the kind of person they are, after experiencing so much evil in this world.
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    Jan 28 2013: So the house is on fire - Who's more likely to survive the incident? The one who makes the quickest escape or the one the one who's compassion drives them to help an injured person they find on the way?

    No one in this life has their give-take balance perfectly tuned. I think that difficult or traumatic experiences early on in life can exaggerate someone's tendency to being overly or underly sympathetic to the needs of others.
    e.g Two people get beaten badly as children, one goes on to become a sadistic thug who will use violence to get their own way, the other would shield another victim with their own body just as not to see them get hurt (masochistic).

    A reasonably well balanced person will place their needs with the needs of others. Their decision to help or hurt someone will be considered and conscious, not pathological. Their ability to asses their own position from the outside will be greater - "Am I being an A-hole?" or "Am I being taken advantage of by an A-hole".

    As for a Yin Yang balance of personality types - This does seem to be the case, even on a micro level with small social environments and communities.
    As for peaks and troughs of kindness - Yes, this appears to be true + Certain situations and people may bring out the kindness in individuals (e.g the sadistic gangster that extends a lot of kindness to his family)
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    Jan 28 2013: Yes, other than the choice of words, hers probably being better than mine, the concept is the same. :)
  • Jan 28 2013: nope, while they might appear to come out worse off if you narrow analysis to a single event, they tend to do better than others in the long term. check out a bbc horizon episode called "nice guys finish first".
  • Jan 26 2013: The article is very good, I've always thought it was a clear difference though.

    Beware that at the root of the "nice" guy behaviour there are his own selfish needs, beliefs and feelings, toward which he is honest and faithful, although those can look "sick". This "nice" guy "ruins" his own existence to be appreciated, to be accepted" and ultimately to be "first" as those kind, smiling and beautiful people he imitates.
    As the article points out, the negativity hidden in his own behaviour does find a way to counterbalance his sick struggles, in a way or the other. Therefore, it's not only him who get his life ruined, but he makes the others pay off their price too and their only fault is to have misjudged him before.

    A guy of this temper hardly refrains from using all his skills in a competition, unless it is his own goal to disguise his own person under lesser dangerous clothes. He in fact can take out in any moment the same strength and violence he applies to his own existence, and apply them to firmly compete with others when he needs it. These guys are usually those "you didn't see coming", and make you feel surprised unless you've seen them doing that in the past.

    When Marcia Sirota outlined the possible sick behaviours that these guys can develop, she has been very accurate in my opinion. You should always put just half of your trust in this kind of guys, and never let they play their game if you want to help them to go out of their vicious circle.

    These opinions come from my own experience with "nice" guys, and I have a piece of strong evidence that at least some of them do reflect this kind of description very well. So I would end saying that your worries are misplaced. Only those trapped in being "victims" can fail to compete, because they've stopped trying.. ..but it is a really different type of people in my honest opinion.
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    Jan 23 2013: Since the human state that exists behind the states of being 'competitive' or 'empathetic' respectively are diametrically opposed, I believe you have hit upon an old problem that has existed since the Neolithic. Its my belief we must evolve a solution to this exact problem within our societies and quickly too.
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      Jan 24 2013: Joanne,
      I do not agree that the human state that exists behind the states of being competitive or empathetic are opposed. That is something we may have learned, and I don't think/feel it to be accurate information.

      I'm thinking about athletic competitions for example, and I also feel that empathy and competitiveness can exist in all situations, if we allow it to. Athlets are often very competitive, and can also be empathetic when one of their competitors experiences pain or challenge of some kind. We can be competitive in ourselves, and still reach out to others with empathy.....can we not?

      I believe we are multi sensory, multi dimensional beings, and can experience many different feelings and emotions at the same time. Often, humans have learned to seperate, and focus on one OR the other, when we can actually experience everything. Perhaps this recognition is part of the "solution" to the challenge?
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        Jan 28 2013: Hi Colleen, what I am saying is that the two states of being are in essence, mutually exclusive. In other words, the kinds of feelings that drive us when we are being competitive, are mutually exclusive to those that drive us if we are being loving. Just as we cannot commit an act of violence and an act of love simultaneously. We cannot hug and strike in the same gesture. The essence of those two feelings are diametrically opposed and in order to engage in empathy, one must step aside from competitiveness for that moment. Again, this is a problem of enormous magnitude when extrapolated to a global view.
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          Jan 28 2013: Hi Joanne,
          I think I understand what you are saying, and I agree that we cannot commit an act of violence and an act of love simultaniously. Those are "acts"......feelings/emotions that manifest into action. I also agree that we cannot hug and strike in the same gesture....again....action fueled by emotion.

          The essence of competitiveness and empathy are not mutually exclusive, in my experience and perception,. I have been a competitive athlete, and I can tell you that I and many athletes compete AND feel empathy at the same time.

          Competitiveness has gotten a bad reputation because we imagine that to be competitive, one has to "put down", "beat", "step on" the other person, and this is simply not true.

          Competitive simply means to "be "inclined, desiring, or suited to compete; depending for effectiveness on the relative concentration of two or more..."

          It is possible to compete....do the best we possibly can in certain practices (business, athletic, etc) AND still be empathetic (the capacity for participation in another's feelings or ideas).

          I guarentee that it is possible because I have experienced it. It is much more enjoyable to recognize other's skills and talents, WHILE recognizing our own skills and talents at the same time. I can play tenise, volleyball or sail boat race VERY competitively, and recognize that those I compete against are also playing the best they can. I can recognize their skill, talent, joy, frustration, etc. because I empathize with them.

          In business adventures, we can be competitive AND also recognize the feelings of others who are competing for the same things. I have also experienced this while owning/operating a small business. We can work WITH each other, while learning and growing with our competitiveness AND empathy/compassion.

          Yes, it is "a problem of enormous magnitude" if viewed from your perception. I believe that competitive and empathy are NOT mutually exclusive....UNLESS... perceived in that way....it is a choice.
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        Jan 29 2013: Hi again Colleen, I hear your perspective and think I understand.

        On a level you are right, of course people may engage in one competitive kind of activity while feeling somewhat opposite kinds of feelings. This is not th point I was making however. I speak about what drives us.

        A motive that drives us to action may be derived from inner love/compassion or by a desire to dominate something, either ourselves or a competitor or a task, as examples. The second driver actually stems from primeval fight-or-flight fear, while the former stems from inner security. These two primary forces within us are mutually exclusive and diametrically opposed.
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          Jan 29 2013: Hi again Joanne,
          I totally respect what you choose to believe in your own life practice, and I do not agree.....so I guess we can agree to disagree:>)

          I understand that you speak about "what drives us". I agree that with our actions/reactions, we are coming from a place of love, or a place of fear.

          Competitiveness can come from a place of love, OR fear. Did you read Don Rogers comment on this thread, in which he told the story of his son, competing in a race, when his opponant fell down and he went back to help his opponant, then continued the race? Those kinds of things happen all the time. You've surely heard about competitors working on projects TOGETHER? It happens all the time.

          "Competitive simply means to "be "inclined, desiring, or suited to compete; depending for effectiveness on the relative concentration of two or more..."

          When we compete, with love in our heart, it is not "opposed" to anything. When we compete, with love in our heart, we are not feeling "opposite kinds of feelings".
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    Gord G

    • 0
    Jan 21 2013: They would only be bitter if they stopped caring. And they would only stop caring if they defined life as a competition.
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    Jan 21 2013: Might I contribute from the world of online dating? lol

    My friends and I are so impressed by kind, articulate, accomplished people who seem to love life--as written on their profiles. But sometimes, not always, when you meet these dudes, they are SO BORING. No edge. We call them spheres. Do we want them to be a-holes? Of course not. But, maybe a wicked sense of humour, dexterity in the world of irony, a healthy radar for predatory elements and the ability to deal in them is evolutionarily attractive. Just saying.

    [Sociopathic douche-y guys with no social intelligence are also appalling i.e. the Lance Armstrong sort, so take heart :) ]
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      Jan 28 2013: My question whenever I hear this comment is: are these truly nice guys, or are they just afraid. To my mind, a truly nice, sympathetic, empathetic guy needs a lot of courage, because just as he will help an old-lady across the road, he will confront a bully or challenge a racist comment. I have never seen a case where women find that kind of courageous, assertive niceness to be boring.
      True, there is a certain charm to someone whose behaviour is on the edge - they are fun to be around, life is a bit more unpredictable - but people like that are often the ones who are most dependable when you really need them.
      As for Lance, he's getting a very bad rap right now, but it's a lot more complex than people realise. It was a sport where everyone was cheating, and he just happened to be better at it (whether at cheating or at cycling) than the other cheats, and so made a lot of enemies. I'm not saying he's a saint, but to listen to the media you'd think he was like Barry Bonds, cheating outrageously in a sport that was otherwise mostly drug-free, and it's not like that. And he did raise hundreds of millions to fight cancer. Even recently, he's handled a totally impossible situation as well as could be expected. I'm not sure he'd be the first person I'd pick as lacking in social intelligence ... not that he'd be my favourite dinner guest either ...
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        Jan 29 2013: Hi Denis, I'm not entirely persuaded by your moral reasoning. Cheating in a world class sport and accepting the title of hero over and over is pretty low. I'm not sure that it should matter that it was in isolation or sport-wide. Being obnoxious about it for years just made it worse.

        Lance realized he lost his entire source of income and fortune because the jig was just up--he put his family at risk. Speaking engagements, a book, a gig etc. is about all he can do to hustle back some of his old lifestyle. I understand that his life is hard now, but he really did it to himself. All of it.
  • Jan 20 2013: There is no such thing as a nice guy. It's simple, What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.
  • Jan 20 2013: I think it takes a certain wisdom and humility to be kind and to remain kind.
    But there is a point at which being overly kind becomes a negative for those receiving it and those giving it.

    A person at the bottom can be humble, yet humility didn't put them there.
    Likewise, a person can be at the top, and humility did put them there.

    I don't think the saying is as true as it is just a kind of retort that people sometimes us as a way of explanation or as a belief.
    Kindness is not a weakness even if another thinks it is. To them it is but it is possible for them to see it as a strength and to learn that it is or can be, just that.

    People who are "unhealthily" kind are just that, unhealthy. If you don't chew your own food, who will?

    We humans don't have a selfish nature. We are not by nature selfish. Selfish is a learned and taught attribute, for lack of a better word.
    Humans are born prematurely and their brains have to develop after birth, outside the womb.
    They are immediately bombarded with the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, conclusions, directions, actions and shared experiences of others, saturated as it were, for years and years.
    No matter which way you look at it, it is impossible to let a child develop without the influences of others.

    But I just can't stand humans continuing perpetrating and perpetuating what I consider false beliefs about our "human nature".
    We are not these negative and so-called bad things, by nature. We are taught them by mentally ill people known as parents, who have been taught them, have learned them and have come to believe them as well. So they pass them on using a tired, 'ole phrase at times that goes something like this:

    "It's for the good of the child."

    They are and have been, the long time perps in society.
  • Jan 19 2013: Ask Lance Armstrong
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      Jan 19 2013: HA!
      • Jan 19 2013: I don't think Lance has any empathy/sympathy.

        But to be more serious...
        That I made the comment kind of shows that am slightly jaded and bitter.
        Or well... it's more like a feeling of disappointment towards the rest of the world?
        Hard to put feelings into words though hehe... In general I'm still happy though :D
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      Jan 21 2013: That guy is a sociopath, straight up.
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    Jan 19 2013: "Nice guys finish last"

    There needs to be a definition of the actual race in which nice guys finish last. Is it the fault of the nice guy that he finishes poorly - or is it the race itself at fault?

    Are there any races where nice guys might actually come first?

    Who or what is it governing the races in the first place?
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      Jan 19 2013: Allan, I was curious about the origin of the saying "nice guys finish last", so did a search...

      The saying never made sense to me....still doesn't, although the explanation gives me the background!

      You seem like a nice guy.....what do you think about the saying? I don't agree with it at all!
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        Jan 19 2013: Thanks for the link Colleen.

        I don't agree with the saying either.

        I think "nice guys finish last" is more to do with lack of competitiveness, rather than lack of ambition. One can still be ambitious and still remain a 'nice guy', but being competitive almost assumes a presumption of hierarchy, belittlement, machismo, one-upmanship etc, which aren't necessarily the characteristics of a nice guy.

        Also, ambition can easily accommodate talent, empathy, kindness, whereas competitiveness is more likely to reward the ability to shout loud, to trample on others in order to achieve, narcissism, prejudice - even psychopathy. (that may be me being jaded and bitter...?)

        I think nice guys who may naturally have affinities towards careers in humanities do not necessarily do well in a capitalist society, where competitiveness is de rigeur for success.

        I generally rely on the opinions of others to judge my own nice guyness - or not! ;-)

        Do you think there's any value in the bit on male/female relationship dynamics?
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          Jan 20 2013: So Allan,
          Read the article that Sarah provides the link for....it's a good one in my perception.

          I agree with the ideas you present, and do not EVER perceive you as a jaded, bitter person! That is my heartfelt opinion.....for what it is worth:>)

          Regarding relationships....
          Something that seems to be connected for me is another saying or myth...."Girls like bad boys". I searched for an origin to this saying, and cannot find one. However, what I did find is all kinds of reinforcement for this saying/myth.

          If we (humans) see and hear these kinds of sayings all the time, do you imagine that it could indeed influence relationship dynamics? My thought is yes!
    • Jan 20 2013: I have also been pondering on this subject for the last year or so. My take is very similar, that nice guys finish last in one particular race, but actually win another race. The people who say "nice guys finish last" are in fact playing a whole different game, which they don't realise. Not all the nice guys necessarily realise they're winning a different game but many do.

      I'm also reminded of an article called "The difference between being nice and being kind", which I highly recommend. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/marcia-sirota/too-nice_b_946956.html . Basically the author draws a distinction between giving as an act of love, an act of kindness, and giving out of fear, which she terms being nice. Being nice to her is actually anything but kind, a relenting and grudging submission to someone higher in the pecking order. She explains it much better than me.
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        Jan 20 2013: Interesting Sarah!

        I went to the dictionary...
        Nice: "showintg fastidious even finicky tastes; exacting in requirements or standards; possessing, marked by, or demanding great, sometimes excessive, precision and delicacy..."

        I have been totally misunderstanding the meaning of "nice"! No wonder "nice guys finish last"!
        It is, as you say....."the people who say "nice guys finish last" are in fact playing a whole different game, which they don't realise"!!!

        I'll be back....need to read the article:>)
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        Jan 20 2013: Good article Sarah, and it makes a LOT of sense. I never liked calling people "nice", and I really didn't know why....didn't ever really look at the meaning of "nice". Thanks for that article:>)
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        Jan 21 2013: Hi Sarah,

        Thank you very much! I have never been shown this perspective before...and it is very revealing of my own, and others around me, behavior. The article was very....paradigm shifting. Thank you again.
  • Jan 19 2013: The whole logic of competition is just a sign of human backwardness and immaturity, the reality is our biological inheritance is out-dated.

    A new form of life beyond human 1.0 will have to be developed for long term survival, all the old versions of human beings (including the the empathetic ones) are in fact not capable of living in a civilized way.
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    Jan 17 2013: I would rather be a stump than successful.

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      Jan 18 2013: Every time I think of the giving tree, I think that the tree is being exploited and might have had a case of depression. The tale of the giving tree seems more depressing than uplifting for me. I feel as though I want too much, but the boy could have at least planted some plants or trees around his friend the "giving tree". How can someone give everything and still have a means to live their own life in the urban world?
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        Jan 18 2013: Of course the tree is exploited. I don't think the story is about the tree. It is about our selfish nature and has us reflect on that. Should we take just because we can? That is the question the book asks.

        Then we reflect on how we should act. Would I rather be the tree or the boy. I would rather be the tree. The metaphor for the environment is pretty strong too.

        Remember, in the end the tree is happy.
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          Jan 19 2013: The other lesson seems to be that exploitees out-live their exploiters or nature will continue to flourish without humans. It seems my childhood education must have lacked in depth because I always thought that the story was to show true kindness or at least that was what I was taught. Doubting my blind faith in my education seems to be another reoccurring motif of mine. =)