A Second Look
Author: Larry Dansky
“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: ‘I was a stranger, and you welcomed me’”. – The Rule of St. Benedict 53:1
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
Have you ever found yourself mentally immersed in an activity called “people watching”? When I find myself at a busy mall or when I find myself in a room with strangers, I often go to a place where I start making up stories about who a person is, what they may do for a living, or what their circumstances are. It can be fun, and possibly a good way of stimulating my imagination. But if I’m introduced to the person, and get to know them even on a superficial level, I find that I am rarely anywhere near correct in my judgment of that person.
In the past, I have found myself judging a person based on a first impression, which is often made on that person’s appearance. I look at what clothes they’re wearing, how many tattoos they may have, their physical stature, their age. I listen to the first words they speak, and all too often my decision as to whether I might like them is based on these first impressions. I know that these superficial characteristics rarely indicate a person’s character, and yet I still find myself making these assumptions. When I do take the time to really know this person, when I look into their heart and not judge them on their outward appearance, I often find them to be interesting, likable, and have much to offer. Why am I surprised?
I am working at catching myself when I start down this road of judging a person based on my first impression. I remind myself not to attach to this first impression, to look deeper into their character, to respect them (re-spect = to see a second time). I let go of my first impressions and look for the “Christ spirit” in others. In our Western culture, we will usually greet people with a handshake. One approach I’ve taken is to reimagine the handshake as the Hindu greeting of Namaste (“I bow to the divine in you”). It is said with a slight bow, hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. I have found that this reminds me to not judge based on initial impressions, but to look for the divine in all that I meet. If I look, it’s usually revealed.
Holy one, help me to remember the Rule of St. Benedict, to look at each new person I meet as if they were Christ. When I do judge based on first impressions, help me to look again, this time with a more