Thursday, January 12, 2012


I had a conversation recently with a friend who suggested that another mutual friend of ours needed to 'upgrade' his appearance in order to be more effective at his job.  I understood his point:  if you 'look' a certain way then people are more apt to go along with whatever it is that you want them to do.  The clothes make the man, dress for success, etc.  But I was reluctant to agree with my friend on the basis that the issue he was talking about seemed to be a superficial one.  

Or is it?  

This raises all kinds of questions with me.  Is it wrong to make judgements about people based on the way that they look?  We think the right answer is no, but this can go either way.  If you see a person who is dirty, dressed sloppily and shows no evidence of personal grooming; you could make the assumption that they are either 1) a homeless street person, or absent that, they are at least 2) undisciplined and apathetic, or 3) possibly mentally out of touch with reality.  These are all 'judgements' we can make.  The person may even have a heart of gold, but if they were a CPA, would you trust them with your retirement account?

What about people who are overweight?  I know some have health reasons that lead to obesity, but aren't most simply overeating and underactive?  And do those personal deficiencies in their behavior translate into other poor decision making?

Does the admonition to 'not judge' from Matthew 7 apply here?  That passage is routinely twisted out of context.  I think the warning there is against being hypocritically judgmental.  There is a difference between judging and being judgmental.  We have to make judgments every day in order to function.  We certainly wouldn't say the judicial system is unbiblical since there is judging going on.  There's even a book called Judges in the bible.

It is true that judgments can be made based on what we observe about others - there will be 'fruit' of the persons character and motives.  However, people can also make us think one thing is true by their words and actions, while the exact opposite may actually be the case.  We can be very good at hiding our true feelings and motivations from others - though not God.  

As I said in Off To The Races, racism takes the individual out of the picture.  It creates stereotypes that may have no connection to reality.  We wouldn't want to make those kinds of judgments.  Another big problem is comparing ourselves to each other in the way we look, or how eloquently we speak, or how talented we are at something.  When we do that, we are making judgments on superficial things.  Usually those assessments make us feel bad about ourselves if we determine that we don't match up, or prideful about ourselves if we determine we are 'better' than someone else.

What do you think about this issue?  Is there validity both ways?  
Is it always wrong to make decisions based on appearances?


  1. Interesting topic, and one that has the potential to open up some long discussion. We're not to judge others, but surely God does not want us to leave our children in the care of the first babysitter who offers to watch them, irregardless of their qualifications, right? I mean if the 15 year old down the street who just quit school, the one I see smoking weed with her stoner friends at the park...if she offered to watch them...would it be wise of me to leave her alone in my house with my children? Would God expect me to do so? Would that be wise? I'm expected to show the love of Christ to that 15 year old, but does that include putting my children at risk? I don't know.

    Many missionary families are faced with the same choices, and many of those families have brought their small children to foreign countries where Christians are persecuted, for the sake of proclaiming the gospel.

    I'm really averse to the idea of putting my children at risk for the sake of another. Yes, God expects me to love that other person. But God has also named me the steward of my family, and it is up to me, more than anyone else on this earth, to protect my family.

    Is there a balance here? I struggle with this.

  2. The answer to leaving your kids with a stoner babysitter question is NO. YES, you should show love to her. But that shouldn't include putting your kids in potential harms way - IN THAT WAY. However, as you said, missionaries potentially put their kids in harms way for the gospel and that is not necessarily wrong. There will DEFINITELY be times when, in order to love another, we must put ourselves in potential harms way. Maybe our kids will be too. It may be when we invite that stoner neighbor to live with us cause she got kicked out of her house, or maybe her parents abuse her, etc.

    I think the overarching issue is: do we ultimately trust God to take care of us, even if that means we might get hurt in the process. Certainly the disciples all had a pretty rough time doing God's will as they all were banished, imprisoned and/or killed for their efforts.

    This is one aspect you've raised. The main issue this post is addressing is: judging. When is it right, when is it wrong, what are the various ways it can be a problem.

  3. I think a particularly interesting path to go down with this is how we compare ourselves to one another. Many times that's appearance-based. What's the cause of that and what are the effects that has on us and our relationships.

  4. As a female, I think a lot of times comparison is caused my insecurity. We think another women looks better than us, dresses better than us, is in better shape than us, etc. It's all superficial stuff. It also causes women to resent the woman they are jealous of or who is making them focus on what they are insecure about. They feel threatened.

    I've had friends who literally say they "hate" someone because they are "skinny and perfect." They are judging based on appearance here. But what they don't know is the true person inside. They may be a wonderful human being and they are hating on them because they are comparing themselves to them and finding themselves to be less than. Also, a person could be beautiful and be a totally hateful, awful person. You just don't know.

    I also see this a lot with my running friends. When I'm in training and keeping up with my runs, I hit about a 9-10 min mile. For me, this is great! Some people would consider it slow and if they ran that pace they would beat themselves up about it. Why? Because others out there are faster. They see people hitting 8 minute miles (or less) and suddenly they feel inferior. It's so silly.

    So in summary, the cause is most likely insecurity and the effects are self-hatred, hatred of others, jealousy, misjudging others, resentment -- all bad stuff. Oh, also coveting. I know a lot of women who compare themselves and get hateful and jealous toward another woman because they want what they have (if they have a successful job, marriage, children, etc). Which I guess goes along with insecurity and discontentment.

    1. Thanks for giving us a woman's view Sarah. I think many of those things apply to men as well. I do see a lot of areas where judging - which I think in our context means making an assessment or determination about another person based on outward appearances - can cause problems. I'm not saying we should never make a judgement about another person. But the biggest pitfalls seem to be when we ARE doing it. Probably because we do it at the wrong time and in the wrong ways.

  5. That first part should say "by" insecurity. Wow, was that a Freudian slip?

  6. Will Howlett1/16/2012

    I have much to say about this topic-being one with a staunch record of general unkemptness...i shall post it later...starbucks is closing...

    1. And a staunch record of generally procrastinating when it comes to writing blog posts or comments.

  7. Also, I think it's interesting how we could dislike someone because they look good, or do something better, or have more money, etc. What is the cause of that? It's pride. Who do they think they are? Better than me?

    We then 'hate' that person for making us appear 'less than' they are. It's a screwed up value system. My value should not be dependent on how well another person does. Unless, of course, that other person does the exact same job that I do, and produces more. Then, fairly, they have more value to the company. But that' s always going to be true. Nobody has exactly the same strengths and weaknesses. That person who produces less may have a better attitude and help morale stay high, etc.

    I'm mainly trying to say that we show our own poor character when we dislike anyone over their success at something. We are wanting others to be bad, or do poorly, so that in comparison we look better. We SHOULD want everyone to excel. I would like for all my friends to be successful, achieve and improve. That's part of what this blog is about. A rising tide raises all the boats. Don't be afraid of others success. Encourage it and then celebrate it with them. It's good for you too.

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