Behind Every Face Is A Story

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We are quick to judge.

According to series of experiments by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, “all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their face. And these quick first impressions, whether we like it or not, “play a powerful role in how we treat others, and how we get treated.”

This study by Willis and Todorov should not really surprise us. We see the same type thing recorded in Scripture. Remember when Samuel was told by God to find the new King of Israel from one of Jesse’s sons? When Samuel saw Eliab, the first of Jesse’s sons, he said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel:

 “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

 It’s not just the quick glance of someone’s face by which we form impressions however. I think other’s actions also play a significant part. Consider the man who takes up two parking spaces or the lady who cuts in front of you in line at Starbucks? Or what about the check-out clerk at the food store who slams your eggs in the basket? I’m not saying any of these actions are okay, but should we judge the whole person by them? If we knew the whole story of why they did what they did, it might make a difference in how we see them.

What do we do?

So how do we become less judgmental? How can we become more understanding and compassionate?  I think the place to start is to realize that behind every face is a story. The lady who is rude to you while buying your morning cup of coffee has a story. The gentleman who looks a bit unkempt at the drugstore has a story. Even the person who appears to have it all together has a story as even in laughter the heart may ache (Proverbs 14:13).

We should seek to understand. We should seek to listen to the stories behind the faces we encounter. We should seek to see people as people. Is this not, after all,  what it means to love your neighbor as yourself? (Matthew 22:39)

Several years ago, I discovered the song They Don’t Understand by Sawyer Brown. It speaks to what I have been referring to above. Therefore, I can’t think of a more appropriate way to end this article than to place some of the lyrics below.

A mother riding on a city bus
Kids are yelling kicking up a fuss
Everybody’s staring not knowing what she’s going through
Somebody said don’t you even care?
Do you let ’em do that everywhere?
She slowly turned around, looked up and stared
She said “Please forgive them
But they’ve been up all night
Their father struggled but he finally lost his fight
He went to heaven
In the middle of the night
So please forgive my children”

A man driving on the interstate
Slowing down traffic making everybody late
Everybody’s staring not knowing what he’s going through
Somebody honked from the passing lane
Yellin’ out the window, I ain’t got all day
The old man looked around and he caught his eye
He said please forgive me
You know it’s been a long life
My wife has passed away and my kids don’t have the time
I’ve been left all alone
And its getting hard to drive
So please forgive me 

Chorus:
(They don’t understand)
Everybody’s busy with their own situation
Everybody’s lost in their own little world
Bottled up, hurry it up trying to make a dream come true
(They don’t understand)
Everybody’s living like there ain’t no tomorrow
Maybe we should stop and take a little time
Cause you never really know what your neighbor’s going through
(They don’t understand)

Remember, behind every face you see today, there is a story!

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