“No More Christian Nice Guy: When Being Nice—Instead of Good—Hurts Men, Women, and Children” is a book written by Paul Coughlin. I had never heard of Coughlin before, but he apparently has (or had) a radio program as well as being a public speaker. He also started an anti-bullying organization. From what I have gathered, Coughlin is in the conservative camp and the book is written from a somewhat conservative point of view though it’s not too heavy-handed.
The book obviously examines concepts of masculinity. There are certainly challenges and pitfalls which are easy to fall into when considering this topic. It seems to be conservatives who are most often drawn to hyper or toxic masculinity. At worst, some people worship the idea of the strong, arrogant, forceful, apparently fearless man who appears to single-handedly make everyone and everything bow to his will. Flowing from this is the danger of attempting to see Jesus as the example macho man. Then any men who don’t conform to this stereotype, who may be more sensitive, are condemned and shamed as not being “real men”. In other words, there is a danger that some will justify bullying behavior as being manly. To his credit, Coughlin does not fall into these traps but remains more balanced. I would characterize it as riding the conservative line but staying within the bounds of reason without going over into complete fallacies.
“Nice” in the context of this book really means passive and/or passive-aggressive. Coughlin correctly identifies these as unhealthy and problematic. Not infrequently, people counter one problem by swinging the pendulum to the other, equally problematic extreme. In this case, “falling of the other side of the horse” would to become aggressive (as touched on above). Fortunately Coughlin also understands aggressiveness isn’t the goal but rather recognizes assertiveness as the healthy disposition.
So far what I’ve said about the book are things I believe most of us can agree upon. Coughlin holds some other beliefs that, while not central to the message of the book, are related enough that they come up. First, he apparently holds a “complementarian” view of men and women, “equal but different”, also known as traditional gender roles. He effectively equates domestic with feminine and disparages metrosexual (a label for men, mostly more urban, who are generally well kept and seen as less rugged). Another problem is that Coughlin borders on blaming wives for their husband’s sexual dissatisfaction.
While I would take issue with some of these, the most disturbing idea—mostly due to how overstated he makes it—is his suggestion of “genderism”. By this, what he claims is that men have been marginalized while women have been favored, at least in church. He goes so far as to compare it to racism. One issue I have with conservatism is when people have the “chip on the shoulder” mentality, believing the “we” (whoever “we” is) are being threatened. The only way I can understand Coughlin’s statements here are to recognize his conservative paradigm in which women aren’t marginalized because their God given role is subservient, and where were racism mostly just happened in the past. (I disagree with this paradigm.)
I think the truth is that masculinity has faced challenges both within the church and in the culture at large. But femininity has has well.
These aren’t “apples to apples”, and I think comparing is problematic, especially trying to argue that one gender has had it worse or that one is favored. Women have been marginalized throughout history up to present, so trying to argue that there is “genderism” against men at the level compared to racism is just ludicrous. Men and women both face significant challenges, and we should seek to improve how we’re handling both genders. This should not be one against the other.
Overall, the book does a reasonably good job of describing the problems with passivity and/or passive/aggressive behavior. It does a good job of encouraging men to be assertive in various aspects of their lives. However, those who are more progressive/liberal may be repulsed by some of the conservative view point in book.