You can’t judge a book by its cover. How many times have we heard that phrase? We know what it means…you can’t judge something based on its appearance. Yet, it’s human nature to do exactly that. How many times have we seen a dirty, homeless person on the street, and thought to ourselves how lazy they are, or perhaps mentally ill, or just plain losers? How many times have we looked at someone of a different race and made assumptions about them based on stereotypes?
A little over a year ago, we were on vacation in Sunset Beach, North Carolina. My daughter, Hannah, was 14 at the time and had brought a friend with her for the week. One day, they decided to walk down to a group of gift shops because her friend wanted to buy her younger siblings some souvenirs. As they walked through the store, the owner followed them around, and then finally kicked them out and told them not to come back. Both girls were shocked because they had been doing nothing but looking around. They weren’t bothering anyone, or acting suspicious, or trying to steal. What were they guilty of?
Both girls were teenagers. Both were wearing black, perhaps one or both of them had a skull somewhere on their clothes. Both of them had numerous piercings in their ears, and Hannah’s friend had gauges that enlarge the earlobe. They may have been wearing black eyeliner. Did the woman feel threatened by them because of their appearance? Did she judge them as shoplifters because they looked different? That’s a shame if that’s what she did. Not only did she lose a sale that day, but she also made two nice, honest girls feel offended by her actions. They felt what it was like to be stereotyped and judged, based on their appearance. Both of them were upset and didn’t understand why they were being judged when they weren’t doing anything wrong in the store. I explained to both of them that the woman likely judged them by their appearance, and even though I know, and they know, that they are good girls, the woman saw only their style, and reacted based on that.
Hannah is now 16, and she wants to get her nose pierced…a small stud on the side of her nose. I have always told her that I wouldn’t allow her to pierce her face, but I am allowing this small piercing. Why? Because I think it looks pretty. All of her piercings have small holes so that they can be removed when she wants, and they won’t leave large holes in her body. Hannah wants to go to nursing school, and eventually she will be going to interviews for jobs. She has seen first-hand how appearance affects people’s opinions. She understands that it’s okay to have your own personal style, but that there are times that you may have to tone it down in order to get to where you want to be.
There are some people that have told Hannah that it’s “wrong” to have piercings, or that the way she dresses is wrong. She’s been told by family members that she is ruining the body that “God gave her.” She has been made to feel bad for what she likes as her own personal style. She has been judged based only on that style. She has been given gift cards for her birthday in past years for places like Aeropostale, or Hollister by people who think the preppy look is the “right” look. Isn’t that a not-so-subtle way of telling her that her appearance is wrong? I think that a lot of us look at the people close to us, and feel that their appearance reflects on us. If she is wearing black and has her nose pierced, what does that say about me? It says nothing. It’s not about the rest of us.
People overlook her amazing qualities, and allow her appearance to overshadow them. Hannah is a person who is open minded, doesn’t judge others, and is quick to speak up when she feels someone else is being judgmental. She has no tolerance for intolerance. She is loving, and caring, and wants to spend her life caring for the sick. Yesterday, Hannah and two of her friends saw a large amount of garbage left in the woods near our house. They filled three garbage bags with someone else’s trash, brought it home, and put it in our garbage pails. Are those the actions of a person that deserves to be told she is ruining what God gave her, or to be kicked out of a gift shop for doing nothing but shopping?
Never judge a book by its cover. Hannah’s cover is beautiful, regardless of a few holes, or the black clothing it wears. Her cover encases a beautiful soul that shines wherever she goes. Don’t miss the soul because of the cover. Wherever you go, take a moment to look beyond the cover, and see the soul inside. THAT is what counts.