Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly. ― John 7:24
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs
from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad
fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. ― Matthew 7:16-18
Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many;
the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden. ― Plato
What do we tell our children? Haste makes waste. Look before you leap. Stop and think. Don’t judge a book by its cover. We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberation. ― Malcolm Gladwell
I used to play a lot of tennis when I was younger. I’ll never forget one tournament I played. I was waiting for my opponent to arrive at the court to play our match, wondering how good or bad of a player he might be.
After a few minutes, my opponent showed up. He was in his teens, had on a pair of jeans that were unevenly cut off to turn them into shorts, was wearing a pair of high-top Converse tennis shoes, had a ratty old t-shirt on that looked like it hadn’t been washed in a couple of months, and had a racquet that looked like it had been sitting in his parent’s garage for years.
I, on the other hand, I was wearing shorts designed for tennis, a tennis shirt, tennis shoes meant for playing tennis, and had a fairly expensive tennis racquet in my hand. If we had played the match on appearance alone, I would have won, 6-0, 6-0.
Unfortunately, you don’t play a tennis match on appearance alone.
I started licking my chops, thinking I had an easy first-round win under my belt before we even hit a shot. As we started hitting balls to each other to warm up, I began to grow a little bit concerned that this kid might have some “game” in him and that the match might not be as easy as I thought.
Once the match started, I grew even more concerned. This kid was a really good player – crisp groundstrokes, really good serve, great volleyer, and pretty quick around the court. I proceeded to get my fanny kicked that day and was out of the tournament after the first round.
I’ll never forget driving back to my apartment after the match.
I felt embarrassed that I had judged this guy by the clothes he was wearing and the racquet he was playing with. I felt embarrassed that I presumed to be the better player because I was dressed in nicer clothes and had a more expensive racquet.
How shallow of me to fall into an age-old trap among we human beings, judging a book by its cover.
It is human to judge the outside of a man or woman and base how we view them on their appearance. Rather than get to know them first and hold off judgment until we more fully understand their character, we assume positive things about people who look good on the outside and negative things about people who look bad on the outside.
There are at least three major things wrong with judging a book by its cover. Let me explain.
First, the tendency to judge someone based on outside appearance causes us to fall into being overly influenced by the first second we laid eyes on someone. In other words, our first, instant reaction to how someone looks spins us into making assumptions about the person that may have no basis in actual reality. Ovid was right when he said, “First appearance deceives many.”
Second, the fact that we judge people based on outside appearance reflects how shallow we are as human beings. The Dalai Lama said, “Even within one person, yesterday and today, there are differences. We must look at a deeper level.” Far too many of us don’t take the time to look at a deeper level at others, defaulting to quick and superficial assessments far too often. Shannon Hale put it this way, “Many times I have learned that you never judge a book by its cover. Like people, it is the inside that counts.”
Third, since people often focus on external appearance to cover up what’s going on inside of them, we often miss the deeper pain and struggles going on inside the person. We interact with them as an object rather than a human being who is struggling to make their way through life just like you are. Judging the outside causes us to miss the humanity going on inside. As Steven Cosgroves put it, “Never judge someone by the way he looks or a book, by the way it’s covered; for inside those tattered pages, there’s a lot to be discovered.”
Munchkins, Humorist Dave Berry said, “There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent.”
When we first see someone, all we can see is their surface, their outside appearance. We just want to make sure we don’t camp out there. Let’s take the time to get to know what’s underneath the surface of a human being before we make any judgments.
And, when we judge, let’s make sure it is coming out of a heart of humility that we are no better.