Too Nice For This World

Photo by Francesco Ungaro at Pexels

By Murray Gottheil | May 22, 2003

Before you read this story, I should let you know that this is a sad story which does not end well.

Long ago I had a great professional relationship and friendship with Laurence.  I liked Laurence a lot.  He was honest and ethical. He cared about his clients, his family, and his relationships. He taught me valuable lessons about dealing with clients and co-workers.

Laurence was prone to depression. It is trite to say that we must all take responsibility for our own mental health, and we cannot blame our problems on other people. There is truth to that, but at the same time, Laurence’s mental state was not helped by some difficult people in his professional life.  

Laurence was a person who loved to help other people succeed.  He was also a people pleaser whose good nature was sometimes taken advantage of by others. I saw that firsthand when I represented him in a dispute with some people with whom he had a business relationship. Since I prefer not getting sued to getting sued, I will not provide any details.

I was very surprised when Laurence confided in me that he was getting divorced. He had never said an ill word about his wife, and that did not change after his announcement. If anything, he seemed to be very concerned about making certain that his wife had all of the tools that she would require to live securely on her own.

One day Laurence finished his work and sent it to his clients. Having fulfilled his responsibilities to all of his clients, Laurence went to his new place of residence and took his own life.

Suddenly, Laurence’s divorce made sense. He had decided to depart this life, but before doing so he wanted to ensure that his wife, who he loved very much, was equipped to handle things without him.

In Don McLean’s song about Vincent Van Goh, he includes these lyrics:

And when no hope was left inside

On that starry, starry night

You took your life as lovers often do

But I could have told you, Vincent

This world was never meant for one

As beautiful as you

There are in the professions some bombastic types who project the illusion of ‘shock and awe’ to intimidate others to surrender to their will. They say things like, “it isn’t personal” or “it’s only business” to justify their ‘take no prisoners’ approach.  Some people can deal with that. Some cannot.

I sometimes think about whether the difficult people who Laurence dealt with ever thought about whether they had contributed to his demise.  Probably not. They likely just moved on to other victims.

Those of us who have a conscience may want to remember that ‘it is all fun and games until someone gets hurt.’  There are beautiful, but vulnerable, people like Vincent and Laurence out there. Is winning at all costs really worth the risk of contributing to their mental decline or death?

Murray is a happily retired lawyer who lives in the country, drives a pick-up truck, writes, teaches and mentors. You can reach him at [email protected] or see what he is up to at


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