Ever hear the old saying “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover”?
Usually this saying is applied to people. Generally the saying is true. But I think more then anything, the real message behind the saying is not “don’t prejudge people” but instead “take the time to get to know them after you’ve prejudged them”.
We all judge people. It’s human nature. First impressions are key indicators in a whole range of situations, whether it be a job interview or a first date.
I like to add to this saying “… but you can get a pretty good idea what it’s about.”
The reality is you can tell a lot about a person from their exterior. The way they dress, the way they carry themselves, the way they talk, the things they do, the way their body is shaped, their hair style and so on.
We try to tell ourselves that inner beauty is the most important thing. But inner beauty is a relative thing. Just like qualities such as “nice” or “mean” are pretty relative at best. I could say “he’s fat but he’s a nice guy”. Well what’s nice to me might not be nice to you. For all I know you could have a personality clash with him. Just like you could think he’s mean and I think he’s sarcastic and funny. However neither of use can disagree that he’s fat. That in itself shows a certain insight into his personality and how well he takes care of himself, what his diet might be like and how often he works out. These are visual indicators of certain aspects of his personality. It’s perfectly fine for us to judge him on that aspect of his personality. What’s not ok is to judge him as a whole on just that one single aspect.
Let me give you an example. I’m not a big fan of tattoos. When I see someone with tattoos I judge them. I know right off the bat that their sense of style is different then my own. The more tattoos they have, the further their sense of style is from my own. I like things clean and simple. Now does this mean they are bad people or that I’m not going to enjoy their company and conversation? Not at all. But will I go out of my way to try and meet them? Probably not. The important thing is that if I’m in a situation to meet them, I don’t go out of my way to let my prejudice stand in the way of getting to know them better.
While I can’t judge a book by it’s cover, it has to grab my attention to even give it a chance. It’s one thing to just not take interest because what you see doesn’t interest you, it’s another thing to let that initial judgment take precedence over everything.
Now there are people who will do the reverse and go out of their way to meet people who they might otherwise feel they would clash with. Nothing wrong with that. But those same people have to understand that if the rest of us don’t do like they do, it’s not because we aren’t open. It’s more because we’ve spent some time on this earth and have tuned ourselves to understand that generally our stereotypes are true. Stereotypes do exist for a reason. They are based on common observations over time. The important thing is, once again, not to let our stereotypes stop us from diving deeper. As well as certainly not to use those stereotypes as a means for hate.
The one thing that’s great about humanity is our capacity for change. We are capable of adapting our perspectives over time based on new information. It’s when we stop ourselves from adapting, that’s when the real danger sets in.