“‘Nice guys finish last,” says the world,’ to which Jesus replies, ‘The Last Shall Be First.’”
Those were the first words spoken [by my cousin Jack] about my grandfather at his funeral in January. My grandfather was Catholic, so the excerpts come from The Integrated Catholic Life. Although I myself am neither a believer nor religious, I cannot help but continue to think about and reference the reading– intertwining and linking the themes of humility, humbleness, and meekness.
“Nice guys finish last” is a quote I’ve heard all my life, in mostly negative and sexist contexts– particularly when speaking in reference to men who are too “nice” and therefore never “get” the girl. Urban Dictionary, in all its glory, has also referenced several contexts within society or the workplace. “Nice guys finish last” refers to the lack of incentive/respect that is rewarded to an individual by society for virtuous behavior, instead being reserved for those demonstrating more superficial qualities.
As a kid, I remember always being last- My last name begins with “W” and I was always the shortest student in the class when it came to concerts or class pictures. I was last in the sense that I wasn’t really anyone’s pick for Homecoming or Prom, and my Mario Kart skills were never up to par. Being last in the class line also meant being able to take the longest drink at the bubbler (Wisconsin slang for “drinking fountain“).
However, when I look back on my life as a whole, it usually doesn’t feel like I’ve finished last. What, with the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve surrounded myself with, I can’t help but admit that I am (usually) genuinely and unapologetically happy. I’ve put in the work and the effort and have gotten some amazing results; this life is exactly what I wanted, and I’ve worked extremely hard to get here. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve gotten to my personal version of the “top” professionally in regards to being a foreigner with a working visa in France. I spent hours scouring blogs, perfecting my CV, and sending out applications. I’ve traveled to some incredible places, and have had some amazing, local experiences because I choose to teach private lessons to make extra money for traveling, and also keep my long-distance friendships intact. I always try my hardest to be a good friend, even from afar, whether that means sending birthday/thank you cards, and working hard to organize visits and Skype sessions when it’s too expensive and far away. I have an outstanding network of family, colleagues, and friends, and I (almost) always feel the continuous love and support when I need it.
Lately, however, it hasn’t felt like enough. Despite being surrounded by friends and family and fulfilling work and incredible experiences, I sometimes still feel lonely. Heck, anyone who knows me avoids that elephant in the room. I try not to let it bother me; I constantly look on the bright side and gloss over the heartbreak. I try to remember the good instead of dwelling on the bad. But sometimes I just want to curl up and cry about the bad. I strive to remain humble and continue to put others before myself, when appropriate. But sometimes I just don’t want to; I want to be selfish and be angry and resentful.
As was stated at my grandpa’s funeral:
“Humility does not mean looking down on oneself or thinking ill of oneself. It really means not thinking oneself very much at all. The humble are free to forget themselves because they are secure. They accept the fact that, as creatures, they are small, vulnerable and not ultimately in control. That gives them a dignity that they don’t have to earn and can never be taken away. So when they mess up, the humble don’t have to cover up. They just say, ‘Please forgive me.’ The humble are secure. They are strong. And since they have nothing to prove, they don’t have to flaunt their strength or use it to dominate others. Humility leads to meekness. And meekness is not weakness. Rather it is strength under control, power used to build up rather than to tear down. The humble are able to truly listen to another with genuine interest and delight in other’s goodness. The humble are the people who give their undivided attention and make you feel special and appreciated. You love to have them around you. You love to work hard for them. You cheer when they are honored. The word cardinal means ‘hinge’, and everything hinges on humility.”
“We are here today because my Grandpa always held the door open,” my cousin said.
My grandfather didn’t die lonely. He didn’t finish last–quite the contrary. Perhaps I just need to keep working a little harder. He certainly never complained, but persevered.