Do not judge a book by its cover

I daresay we're all adept at sizing up people and putting them in the ‘usual’ pigeon holes. Dressing, appearance, speech, accent, conduct and behaviour go some way in how these boxes are allocated. Some of us are quick to judge on these factors alone. You take one look and decide, this fellow just doesn’t measure up. This person is not dressed right. Their enunciation and diction, maybe even phonetics is not quite authentic. Depending on where the interaction took place you might notice, they used the wrong utensils for the dessert!

Once we think an individual doesn’t match up to our standards or the way we think they should look, dress or speak we do one of several things. Write them off, so they become persona non grata. For this category, the ‘other’ simply ceases to exist. This also includes ignoring them or giving the person the cold shoulder when we bump into them again. The second response is to speak disapprovingly about that individual. These can be subtle or not so subtle remarks as the case may be. There might be various permutations of these responses or new ones not even considered, after all given enough people reactions will certainly differ in their numbers too.

Classification is human conditioning and helps us make sense of the world and the things in it. It is not a bad thing really. It becomes unacceptable when we choose not to make room for differences that arise, for whatever reason. It becomes a grave handicap when it develops into an outright bias that gives no room to include those variables that makes each human being unique. Conditioning also introduces blind spots and factors not experienced by subjects.

This difference and originality is what gives each person their identity. Those things that set siblings apart despite having lived with the same parents often stamps them indelibly. So people may be cut from the same cloth, but rarely are. When we have this as a guiding principle, it makes possibly awkward situations interesting and even though you might not gain a lifelong friend, a bond that can be made stronger is forged. It also makes it easier the next time you find that you are the fish out of water!

In this new world order stereotypes and rigid classification will not help us, whether as individuals, culturally or as societies. As we learn to understand, investigate, question, empathise and try and see things from another’s stance, then and only then can we grow and evolve and so become more of all we could be.

As humans we are also the most flexible and have the capacity to bend, assimilate and conform. We continuously demonstrate this with breakthroughs in science, innovation and in forging relationships hitherto thought impossible. As we learn to embrace the different and stay open to even a suggestion of what does not resemble us, we can be assured of a future pregnant with promise and hope.

So just like our favourite author has different stories populated with changing characters, places, backgrounds and even genres, each person we encounter is exactly like that. We must take care not to let our incomplete understanding of their journey adversely affect our interactions. We must seek to enjoy and learn at every instance so that our perception, empathy and character will benefit, no matter the conditions in which we find ourselves.

1/Post a Comment/Comments

  1. Lovely. Well written.

    A new world take on an old world instruction that is still very much valid.


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