His older children have weathered divorce and uncertainty. My children were getting older, the oldest about to turn 12, I told him, and I felt like lately, everything I said was misunderstood — everything was seen as criticism or nagging — and suddenly I could clearly see how a child who used to want to lie in bed with you and watch movies on his birthday could drift toward someone who could barely look at you.
Nice Guy syndrome
You offer up that to them. I will do anything I can possibly do in order to keep you safe. Offer that up and then just love them. Go ahead. I think I have a cache of mystery. Not that all of his characters are saints. Real people have real motivations. They are complicated in realistic ways. I laughed out loud. He looked at me again and waited. It feels like the world has been engulfed in a chronic-seeming grimness, and it was beginning to feel like it was no longer an aberration but the new reality.
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But it got worse and so on until now, here we were, a journalist crying in a conference room in Santa Fe. He told me about these speculative fiction books he reads by Kim Stanley Robinson. Then he told me about a trip he and Truman took on the Los Angeles light rail. Meaning: things were always this bad.
But they were also always this good. I told him I make too many mistakes to work on a typewriter. But Tom Hanks is more optimistic than I am. In exchange, my story would be boring. Some stories are boring. And maybe it was because this paragon of professionalism spent half of the interview crying, or maybe because Hanks felt bad about my altitude sickness, or maybe this is just what it means to be nice, but this is what he said to me:.
And part of that is I am not malevolent. But it also helped him hide, he said. Which is not much by way of darkness, and all it really proves is that Tom Hanks is even nicer than I thought: He wants to save my story from being boring. Which I could do on my own. I could make a convincing argument that performance art as a nice person — from your public actions to your choice of roles as altruistic, heroic types — is a way to hide from expanding your range.
But if I had that kind of instinct I was worn down over the next few weeks as I spent hours on the phone with people who knew him well. Hearing that made me think of something Tom Junod said to me in Toronto, how he went into the Mister Rogers story looking for who Fred was but came out knowing only what he did. He stared at all his reporting for a long time before he realized that the doing is actually the thing we should be paying attention to. He is the Platonic ideal of a man, a projection of what we wish we were, or, more worrisome, a theory of what we actually are, and, well: Have you read the other pages of this newspaper?
I am too old for Mister Rogers.
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My children are too old for Mister Rogers, too. And one day, something changed. My heart was never a spike; it was always an umbrella but sometimes it would invert against a storm. That day I recalibrated, and suddenly my umbrella was upright, once again able to shield me from the weather. We actually believe that by watching a professional sports team, that somehow that puts money in our masculinity account. Jim: Paul, I gotta tell you though, I'm guilty of that.
I'll sit with my boys. We'll watch a good football game and I think we all feel a bit more masculine after that, but I get your point. IN fact, this confusion about masculinity that you're talkin' about reminds me of the reason we did The Family Project , which is a video and a curriculum, but it had that theme of fatherhood and fatherlessness and that cuts close to my heart, because I didn't have a dad. And I think many, many men in this culture are striving to find relationship in that way.
What does it mean to be a man? And that series, I think, does a great job of presenting God's principles.
If you don't know about it yet, stop by www. Jim: Paul, I want to get back to this topic of courage and God's character in that regard, because I'm a bit perplexed by it. When I look at what I read in Scripture, courage to me is being able to stand with people who don't think the way you think, who don't agree with you and be able to talk with them.
You're engaging them and hopefully, in doing that, you're showing the character of God in that moment, in their presence. And in doing so, it takes a great amount of courage and so often in the faith community today, many of us, we lack that ability to do that. It's far easier to throw a stone from a distance, rather [than] to engage them and actually talk through the issues. Why does abortion go against our senses, our God-ordained senses? Why does marriage carry a definition of one man and one woman?
They need to hear from us, not just receive body blows from us, but that's the kind of love we're talkin' about. That's courageous love. Paul: Yeah, you know, what's really interesting about that is yeah, we're supposed to speak the truth in love. It is difficult.
It is an art and none of us seem to fully arrive there. It's a life-long ability to hone. What we're really talking about here is getting to the assertive personality type. There are roughly three kinds of personalities and I'm probably showing my age here, but I remember the original "American Idol," right. Laughter The original judges and we see they were chosen for a reason, 'cause they represent the three basic personality types. You had Simon Cowell. I think he put half of America into counseling.
Paul: But it didn't have grace. To be truthful without being gracious is like performing surgery without anesthesia. It gets the job done but it causes unnecessary suffering. And people don't really listen to you after a while. You have to earn the right to speak into a person's life.
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So, there's Simon Cowell. And then there was Paula Abdul, God bless her four-foot soul. She Laughter was gracious, but she wasn't truthful. She would say, I am a great singer and I'm horrible. I'm a horrible singer, but I'm sure she would say something nice about me. But she'd give me false hope. Those kind of people just really aren't going to steer you in a very good direction, 'cause we need wisdom in this world.
And then you have Randy Jackson, who represents in many cases, the assertive personality. He was truthful, but also gracious. And what's really interesting, we need to keep this in mind, is that he also got booed. It wasn't just Simon Cowell who got booed. Randy Jackson did, as well. So, when we take on this more assertive orientation toward life, we need to realize that criticism is coming, but at least we're being criticized for something that we, you know, you didn't really deserve.
Nice people get criticized all the time, but it's usually behind their back and it's about the sins of omission. It's about the things that they didn't do that get them in trouble. Jim: Paul, let me ask you, because you're talking about these personality types and how those are developed. You know, family of origin plays a significant role in that. You overcome your circumstances. Hopefully as Christians, you learn to absorb the pain of this world and turn it into something good, Romans , "All things work for good. I mean, I have lived tough things as an orphan kid, but hopefully, God's grace is found in that and you can do better because you learned to subdue perhaps those more dark responses in what you learned.