Choose Not to Prejudge Others

Choose Not to Prejudge Others

One More Year of Choices…

By Barbara Dahlgren

I guess some idioms will soon be obsolete. Those who grow up reading books on Kindles may one day not even know what “judging a book by its cover” means. We may have to think of a better phrase to let people know that prejudging one’s quality, talent, or character just by looking at a person is a mistake.

Britain’s Got Talent, the British counterpart to our American Idol, found that out in 2009 when a frumpy-looking, 48-year-old, unemployed volunteer decided to try out for the television show. The audience was skeptical and judges rolled their eyes until Susan Boyle sang her inspiring rendition of I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables. A standing ovation followed. So did fame and fortune for Boyle.

Our human tendency is to make evaluations based on outward appearances. We might think a man is poor because he wears raggedy clothes and drives an old car, but he could be a millionaire. Someone might look wealthy and be a big spender, but he may have maxed-out credit cards and a house in foreclosure.

In today’s superficial world, people tend to judge by appearance. We make wrong assumptions when we judge someone’s character by what appears on the surface. Meekness is not weakness. Sociability is not spirituality. Loquaciousness is not intellect. Using wisdom is not cowardice. Having biblical knowledge does not mean one is close to God.

The scribes and Pharisees appeared spiritual on the surface, yet they judged Jesus and his disciples’ religiosity for eating without washing their hands. That was a definite no-no against their purity laws, which were a big deal at the time. These laws were what the religious hierarchy used to determine one’s devotion to God. (Mark 7:1-8) They didn’t know they were criticizing the very Son of God.

Samuel would have chosen Jesse’s first born son Eliab to replace King Saul. After all, he was tall, handsome, and athletic. When Samuel saw him he said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here.” (1 Samuel 16:6, 7) But God refused him because God looks on the heart, not the outward appearance. So a lowly shepherd boy name David was chosen instead.

When God wanted someone to deliver the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt, Hhe did not choose an eloquent speaker. He chose Moses, who was not what you would call dynamic. In fact, he was slow of speech; perhaps he even stuttered. (Exodus 4:10) Yet he was a man of God. (Deuteronomy 33:1)

Making snap judgments based on appearances can lead to prejudice, segregation, and stereotyping. Yet, it is easier to judge quickly than to take the time to get to know people. Only through knowing people can we determine how they think or feel or where their hearts are. Only through looking beyond the surface can we discover those hidden qualities, talents, or character traits worth finding.

Consider this… Whether we are holding a brightly covered book with appealing pictures or a Kindle with only sparse features, we will still have to read the book to know what it’s all about.

 

Suggestions for practicing this choice….

  • Accept people for who they are, not how they look. Pink hair, tattoos, and flamboyant clothes do not mean flighty, crude, and shallow.
  • Do not think you can’t learn something from people without a college education or PhD. It would be a mistake to assume they are unknowledgeable or uneducated.
  • It’s a “put-down” to prejudge others. When we “put others down” we are actually trying to pump our self-worth up. The Bible says to esteem others better than ourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
  • Try to accept our differences rather than trying to get everyone to conform to what we like.
  • Follow God’s example of looking at a person’s heart, not his/her outward appearance.