Latest Issue

You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

Most people have heard of the saying, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Simply put, this means that one cannot form an accurate opinion of someone else based solely from what they see on the surface. In our daily lives this might mean giving people the benefit of the doubt and waiting more that two seconds before beeping at a person that is sitting at a green light or not assuming that all people with tattoos are criminals (I have two). Sometimes, people with 16 items in the 15-item fast lane at the grocery checkout really don’t know they are over.

When I was a new undergraduate at Lock Haven University in the early 1990s there was a period of time when people parted for me like I was Moses and they were the Red Sea. I am not imposing, mind you. I am about as tall as your kneecap. I didn’t give it too much thought, as college had enough challenges without me overthinking this. Occasionally, I would wonder, however. Could it be the way I was dressed? Well, it was the nineties so we all looked terrible in our cuffed jeans and electric colored sweaters. Over time I forgot about it and just took it as the norm. People stepped aside out of courtesy.

One day, as I was hanging something on a bulletin board in my dormitory, two girls walked in. I had seen them around but didn’t know them personally. They both eyed me suspiciously then stopped. Finally, one of them said, “Why are you so angry all of the time?” I was shocked as I thought I was a pretty mellow guy and everyone thought the same. “What do you mean?” I responded. “I’m not an angry guy?” “Well,” she continued, “you always look so mad.” I thought for a moment and took off my glasses. “Do I look like this?” I said, and scrunched up my eyebrows. “Yes, exactly.”

Anyone that knows Lock Haven knows it has two things: lots of steps and lots of rain. Oh, by the way, I have very poor eyesight and rather than have my glasses constantly fog up, I used to walk to class with them in my pocket. I would have to squint terribly so that I could read the building names. Apparently it also gave me a look that said, “I’m crazy, step aside.”

After an explanation the two girls understood that I was really a nice guy (at least that was what I hoped) and that I simply had terrible eyesight. The rest of our exchange was pleasant and from then on I decided to wear my glasses, even in the rain, as to avoid any further misunderstanding.

The moral of the story is that we never truly know what is going on with someone else. So, before we jump to conclusions and assume that the other person is mean or dishonest, stop and take a minute. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Start with the assumption that most people are innately good. Then, reason that it might be a lack of communication between the two of you. They might be having a bad day, they may have received some bad news, or they might just be worn out and distracted like we all get from time to time. Who knows, they may even have poor eyesight and are just trying to find their classroom.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *