What You See Isn’t Always What You Get

I’ve finally come to an obvious observation: We are a culture of critics. We make assumptions about people by the way they dress, their behavior, social standing, or even the car they drive. That sounds petty, doesn’t it? But let’s face it. It’s a critical world out there and I’ve learned what you see isn’t always what you get.

For instance, I once knew a guy who seemed like a sweet, kind individual. And I believed that right up to the day he bludgeoned two people to death. crime sceneAnyway, all I’m saying is sometimes people surprise you with who they actually are on the inside when their outside is saying something else. Sometimes it’s tough to discern the truth, don’t you think? People often present themselves in a way that allows them to fit in when in fact they’re impersonating who they think it is we want to know. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not attempting to get all philosophical here. Actually, I think the impersonators are the exception, not the rule. Still, try as I might to restrict judgment with what meets the eye, I’m not always successful. And that bothers me. I wonder, are we innately judgmental or is it learned?Personally, I think it all starts in grade school. Where I lived, if you were the only kid in fifth grade not wearing the latest fashion, you may as well have been wearing a bulls-eye.

I realize this also depends in which part of the country you reside. What’s popular in California may be laughed at in Arkansas (and probably is). But wherever you live, there is undoubtedly a standard by which you’re judged within your community. There’s no avoiding it unless you live isolated in the mountains with only Big Foot as a neighbor.

Howdy neighbor!

Howdy neighbor!

Take John, one of our volunteer feral cat feeders. Before I met him, I was informed he always wears filthy sweatpants, is a hoarder and also a bit of a hermit. Armed with this description, I had a preconceived idea of John. And I’m happy to report I was wrong. And shame on me. Maybe John is a hoarder. Who cares? Maybe he wears filthy sweatpants because he hasn’t washed them in a while. So what? Regardless, I find him to be articulate, intelligent and interesting. (And he treats the cats well, so he’s awesome in my book.)

John makes me smile

John makes me happy

Remember that ad with tennis player Andre Agassi that proclaimed, “Image is everything”? Well, I’m sad to say that’s the American way. We live in a commercial, vain society. The latest fashions make us appear trendy and fashionable. Endless choices of cosmetics help us appear more attractive. Plastic surgery hides imperfections so we appear younger.

We’re visual people. So our initial observations will bias our first impressions one way or another. I for one am constantly being enlightened by reality.

Britains Got Talent, Susan Boyle

Britain’s Got Talent, Susan Boyle

For instance, my friend told me about a minimalist she knows. He’s given away most of his possessions and to the outsider, looks destitute. Although he is financially sound, he chooses to shun what many consider the finer things in life.This man is content without TV, a phone or even a car. To him, the finer things in life aren’t things. And I agree. (Still, I have to admit I enjoy having those things!) But my point is if you didn’t know him you might assume the poor guy is, well…poor.

Anyway, I’m sitting here contemplating the whole judgment thing and wondering if it’s possible to quit assuming ones character based on appearance or behavior. Because those things can sometimes be a smokescreen for what’s really underneath that kind smile or designer hat.I find it fascinating trying to figure out who people really are, don’t you? Sociopaths in particular intrigue me, especially since I’ve known a couple. But that’s for another blog…

John Wayne Gacy performed as a party clown but was also a mass murderer. Everyone loved football great OJ and we all know where that ‘nice guy’ ended up. Scott Peterson acted like a gentleman and appeared All American, whatever that is. Now he’s on death row for killing his wife and unborn baby.


No, my friends, you can’t always judge a book by its cover. Still, that doesn’t stop us from doing so, does it?


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