People aren’t always what they seem at least not by the expression on their face. I had a neighbor many years ago, a lovely young woman whose natural facial expression was always a frown, but the minute you engaged her attention, her face lit up with warmth and sincerity. She didn’t seem to realize that her unconscious expression was a deterrent, i.e a frown, and I wonder how many people she may have unintentionally put off.
I guess we’re all so busy with our lives and worries we don’t notice that we’re wearing our innermost emotions on our faces. Rarely do you see strangers walking about with a smile plastered on their face, but when you do (and it’s rare) you can’t help but smile back. (or you think they’re nuts)
It’s so easy to judge another by their facial expression; judging the book by it’s cover, but is it a fair representation of the individuals character? Not likely. For that matter, have you ever caught yourself in a mirror, unaware? And if you have, were you pleased with the expression you portrayed? Probably not. So is it safe to assume that we are all guilty of judging the book by its’ cover? Probably.
Ok, so where do we go from here?
If we force a smile on our faces and plow through the streets of society we’ll probably end up in a looney house so I guess it’s not as superficial as our ‘expression’. What we need to focus on visually, is what’s behind the expression. Read between the lines.
The seemingly oblivious mother whose children are running wild on the bus may be struggling with financial woes, a sick parent, spouse, or child. She may well be an irresponsible parent who cares not for her children’s behavior, but that’s unlikely.
The sullen teen who glares at the mere mention of authority, or rolls their eyes at any and all offers of conversation. Maybe they’re struggling with peer pressure, family issues, bullying, or self-esteem.
The enraged driver who steps out of his vehicle just itching for a fight after you accidently rear ended him. Is it really the fender bender than made him lose it, or maybe job stress, marital issues, money trouble?
Whatever causes the expression of the moment, you can bet it’s not the true essence of the person. It’s the passion of the mindset at that moment; the straw that broke the camels’ back, the final blow that pushed them over the edge, and it is not the true character of the individual. (we have to believe that, otherwise we’re no better than animals)
So how do we deal with it?
The indifferent mother, the teen oozing attitude, the irate driver – they all have internal struggles, and we can react with like behavior, or we can look beyond the cover to see who they really are. Someone has to be the bigger person in these situations and at some point we will all experience both roles because we are so very human and vulnerable to human emotion, even when it’s irrational. Taking the higher road will gently prod the aggressor to look within, re-evaluate their behavior, and if they’re still of reasonable mind they’ll likely be somewhat embarrassed. They may even be startled by your rational reaction to their aggression because they would be expecting like behavior – you now have their attention, and very likely their respect.
Occasionally the aggressor might be so aggravated that they are beyond reason and any attempts to pacify them will only fuel their fire. In this case you can only accept that you cannot diffuse this situation and you’re best to remove yourself (run like hell!) It’s not easy to turn the other cheek but it’s the only way to ensure that our civilized society remains civilized.
And above all else, don’t judge the book by its’ cover, because behind that cover is someone just like you who doesn’t want to be misunderstood.