The following is an excerpt from the book, Real Life Moments, by J. Mark Fox, C4FIC Board member.
“Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (Romans 12:16)
The lady in the airline terminal had bought a book to read and a package of cookies to eat. The flight was twenty minutes from boarding, so she settled into her seat and began to read to pass the time. A few minutes into the first chapter, she was shocked by what was happening beside her. The man two seats over was fumbling to open the package of cookies in the seat between them. She couldn’t believe it.
Who did this man think he was?
A perfect stranger was eating her cookies. Well! I am not going to just sit here and let him eat them all. So she reached over and took a cookie, biting into it with emphasis while stealing a glance at the man out of the corner of her eye as if to say, There! Take that! The man did not return her glance but kept reading his paper while reaching for another cookie. She waited a second, took another one and bit more loudly. He ignored her and took two this time. She ate another, and when they were down to the last cookie, the man broke it in half, got up and walked away. The lady could not fathom the nerve of this man, but soon the boarding call was made and she got on the plane. Still wondering about what planet this man could possibly have come from, she reached into her purse to find a tissue. That’s when she found her package of cookies, still unopened.
It’s true that you only get one chance to make a first impression. But it is also true that first impressions are often wrong. Stephen Covey, in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” wrote of a mistake he made on a Sunday morning subway ride in New York:
People were sitting quietly — some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.
Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.
The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.
It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”
The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
“Do not be wise in your own opinion.” How many of us, me included, could avoid hurting someone with our words if we would first learn all of the information before we make a judgment? After all, our first impression is often wrong.
Prayer: “Lord, please forgive me for the many times I have judged someone solely on outward appearance. Teach me to look with Your eyes at everyone I meet.”
Action: Talk with your children about judging people based on their appearance and about labeling people according to their weakness, physical ‘imperfection’ or some other non-flattering distinguishing feature.