I cannot seem to ever learn the lesson of book covers enough times that it actually permanently sinks in. I wish it was how I view the world. No, I judge books by their covers all the time when it comes to people, and it’s a terrible thing to do in many circumstances. It leads to false assumptions, offense, and shutting people out of my life with whom I could have positive relationships.
I don’t want people to judge me by my cover either. I’m terrible at most first impressions. I’m easily shaken by job interviews. I cannot get comfortable on most first dates. I’m not pretty to look at most days. I don’t always say what I mean to say, or say it in the way I mean to.
I’m sure many have adjudged my book cover unfairly. However, I have certainly judged others’ covers unfairly, too. I first really learned the lesson when a guy I was supervising just couldn’t get his shit together. He was a mess, and I just thought of him as a broken person that didn’t want to follow rules. My eyes were opened to the reality of the situation, when in an important conversation with him, he told me about his experience losing a parent at a very vulnerable time in his life. Suddenly, so many of his actions made sense. They still weren’t necessarily things I condone, but suddenly I could understand where he was coming from with his actions and perspective.
I can think of multiple recent experiences with others that teach me the selfsame lesson.
With one person, I thought they were being far too showboaty with their beautiful self. Then I found out that they had lost over a hundred pounds before I ever became acquainted with them. I mistook their newfound confidence for sheer vanity and braggadocio.
Another person was striking me as far too pious and self-righteous. Then I discovered that I could relate to their actions a great deal. They were dealing with the dichotomy forced upon them by the coexistence of their religious upbringing and their homosexuality.
Another person seemed far too cold and distant. I was sure they hated me. Then I found out they were dealing with a serious disease. They were probably just really preoccupied, and, duh, not everything is about me. (That’s another lesson I could learn a few times over.)
There’s more to people than meets the eye. There’s often a story behind the human book cover that is very interesting, relatable, and understandable. Get to know their story before you pass judgment.
Dear Jeff, stop judging others by their covers. You don’t like the idea of them doing it to you. Don’t do it to them.