“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell


Sunday, December 05, 2010

Seeing people by their outward appearance

In the last several weeks, I have had conversations with several friends regarding people's outward appearance. The first revolved around one friends perspective that I should never look on outward appearances. He felt he could wear his pajamas to church and that should have no impact on the manner in which he was viewed by those around him. If they did have a problem with his appearance, it was their problem in not being Godly, viewing, even judging people on outward appearances and not looking on the heart as God does. We went back and forth on this, I in the awkward position of on some level defending some efforts to try to present myself in somewhat of a positive manner by my dress.
Now those of you who do not know me must understand that my outward appearance is not something that I worry about that much. I dress for comfort, buy my ties at the thrift store (since I was required to wear one in one work setting) and largely have a beard mostly so that I only have to shave 15% of my face rather than 45% of my face. Those who do know me would probably say I don't even work as hard on my appearance as I appear to be indicating here.
Yet I found myself in the position of trying to defend a notion of public appearance. My friend said it shouldn't matter and doesn't matter to him. I agreed that it shouldn't matter and doesn't matter to me, however, to those who might listen to me, who are not a part of the faith, potentially, it could make a big difference. So if I moved about the community in my pjs I am confident there are people who would not approach me or want me to approach them simply due to my dress. My friend understood and left it at that, but he could have brought up the example of John the Baptist and other Biblical characters who would have likely held his position.
Then another friend, a woman with mild intellectual disability was literally incongruous that I would care about outward appearance in any manner. If someone would judge others on the basis of what they look like, well, they are just being discriminatory. I shared my argument with her but she was as unconvinced as my other friend.
I have learned to listen to all my friends, but particularly those with intellectual disabilities because they will just about always tell me the truth as they see it. They are right that society judges on the outward appearance. They are right to question my willingness to participate in that form of judgment of people by the way that I dress or encourage them to dress. In their pure thinking where reasoning is "impaired" by disability, they are unaware of how society perceives them. On some level they don't care. I on the other hand, am brutally aware of how society perceives them and am at least partially aware that it is influenced by appearance. I am also aware, however, that they will be judged independent of their appearance. So perhaps they have it right whether them come to their understanding through logical reasoning or simply because they take Biblical warnings about judging others to heart.
The take home lesson for me, however, is that they really don't care about the appearance of others in a way I can hardly grasp. It goes back to the notion I wrote about in this blog several years ago discussing the saying "don't hate the player, hate the game." Well I will tell you in all honesty, that my friends with intellectual disabilities, for whatever reason, are absolutely unlike society in being able to see people simply as people without looking on outward appearances. Their lack of concern is breathtaking and refreshing.
I will refrain, in the future, from trying to convince them otherwise about how society sees them, or how they need to conform to society. Don't conform to the patterns of this world is what it says in Romans 12. My friends are beginning to teach me that lesson.
McNair

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is interesting that those with disabilities do not care as much how society looks at them based on their dress. I fell that this may partly be because they may feel that they are already being judged because of their disability and that their dress would come second in the order of how people are already judging them. If someone were to argue with me over whether wearing pajamas in public was ok I would argue that it is not presentable but i also do not have a disability that others are already judging me on first.

Anonymous said...

The concept of outward appearance has been something I have thought about in the past; however, I never thought about it in regards to those with disabilities. I strongly believe that people should look at what is inside a person's heart, instead of what they look like outwardly; however, the world is not always so kind. If this was a perfect world, we could all dress how we want, where we want, and when we wanted, but there is a line drawn in our culture. Stereotypes have been formed towards certain groups, and individuals. I know that earlier I said that I think people shouldn't care so much about how a person looks; however, there is a difference between how someone looks, and how someone presents themself. I do not think it is appropriate for someone to not look presentable, and not even care about looking presentable. A person should care about themselves enough to make any effort on outward appearance; and I am not at all saying people, especially those with disabilities, need to get up 3 hours early to get ready and look amazing for the rest of the day; I am just saying that individuals do need to care about how they present themselves in society if they want to interact with the culture.

Anonymous said...

I think this is an important lesson for anyone to learn. Having previously worked in a grocery store, I have been presented with many situations where I can surely say I was guilty of making a judgment about someone based on their appearance. However, most of the time I can say that I was happy to be proven wrong.

I would also argue that there is some measure of importance to one's choice of clothing whether we want to realize it or not. I certainly wouldn't wear pajamas to a wedding, not because I am afraid to be judged about what I wear, but it is a matter of respect to the individuals getting married. The event is an important one to those individuals, and by dressing in pajamas, I, in many ways, am essentially communicating to them that I do not view their important event as being that important to me at all.

In the end, the way a person dresses shouldn't define them; it is a form of expression and opinion. Not every opinion or expression is an agreeable one, and not all of them are respectable. What I wear shouldn't confine me to a particular class or group of individuals, yet it can easily be understood as such. Stereotyping at its best.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you to an extent.
I believe people judge based on appearance and that is their problem.
I also believe that God wants us to bring Him our best and one way to give Him our best is by looking our best.

You can't judge a book by its cover. I believe this applies to everyone, especially those with disabilities. Oftentimes people do not open the cover to read the book. They are missing out on some great, life-changing stories.

Jess said...

It has always been and will be about apperance with everyone no matter having a disability or not. However people with disabilities are judged far worse with "outward apperance", which is horrible because inside we are all the same and its sad that not everyone can see it that way and just love one another as God has and is so loving with us. But we live in a cruel world and have to learn to just not let people get us down or others! Everyone is special in there own way thats what makes us so unique!

Danielle said...

A couple semesters ago I took a class at Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta. My class was called Virtues of a Godly Woman. One of the chapters mentioned the verses in 1 Timothy 2:9,10 which says...women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. What I remember learning about the word "propriety" is that it meant proper for the occasion. So if I were to go to a wedding I would dress in a way that was proper for the celebration. And with every other occasion just as that one, it is a call to dress properly. I try to dress in a way that would be pleasing to the Lord. I know what the Bible says about the Lord being concerned with my heart and desiring truth in my intermost being, but I don't think it would be proper for me to wear my pj's to church unless it was a 5th and 6th grade sleepover or some other occasion where it would be fitting. But the judgment that is mentioned about the way that people choose to dress is not congruent to that of the Father.
I am also refreshed by the attitude of those people who were mentioned by Dr. McNair. And on the other side of things, I catch myself trying to dress a certain way so people won't think I am a complete wreck! I throughly enjoy going on missions trips where it is more common to dress more casual and look more natural. I was told once that I am not supposed to wear make-up in Mexico. That was also very refreshing and freeing to look just like the Lord made me.

Anonymous said...

I find this post very interesting. By coincidence I just did an assignment about outward appearance. I used a verse from Samuel 16:7 that says "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at his outward appearance but the Lord looks at his heart."

This passage helped me understand the way we should all look at others. However, in many circumstances, myself included, I did not find that the case.

I believe the way that one should dress is through respect. I am guilty of dressing how the way I want people to view me. For example, when I attend class I dress like I want to be there out of respect for my professor, I'm not going to show him or her that I am a rumpled mess and don't want to be there. I will show up prepared and if that means having my shirt tucked in, then that is what I will do.

I feel that dress may be important, but labels are not. Dr. McNair and I have probably shopped at the same thrift store. I believe the way one carries oneself is important in respecting others. If you respect others by the way you are dressed, and not by labels, then I feel your heart can show through your appearance and others will see it too.

Anonymous said...

Judging others by their outward apperrance is a common practice in our society. Growing up in this society, we have been taught that judging others based on the way they look is a bad thing to do. The prctice of treating everyone equally is the righteous way to live. Many people have fought for equality and justice. Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez,and Thurgood Marshall all represent leaders who fought against judging others based on apperance. All their efforts have made drastic changes in the way people should percieve others, but it will never eliminate the fact that we base everything on looks. For instance, parents might have raised us with the value of accepting people for who they are. However, most parents are uncomfotable when their child marries out of their race. Federal law requires that employers practice EOE (Equal Opportunity Employer). If one wore pajamas to and interview, he or she would never get hired. Apperance is vital to getting hired. The clothes that one wears is constantly being judged by others. If a woman wore a revealing outfit she would be considered a prostitute or un-lady like. If teenagers wear baggy pants and a buzzed hair cuts they are considered gang members. This type of ignorace is how society judges one an other. The thought of having a society free of judgement would be wounderful. Although it would be difficult to achieve, one has to keep trying. Strong efforts create successful results. Without the efforts of social movements, I might not have been able to attend college.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the author of this entry in that it is refreshing to hear about people who are not consumed with conforming to what society has deemed acceptable. Although, I feel that your outward appearance is not something to be judged it is something that one should take into consideration depending on the situation. For example, going to a job interview in your pajamas may not get you the job. Presentability can be important though, it can show self respect and self confidence. To each his own, dress how you want to dress, but I feel that you should be more presentable at times than others, but that is left to our own discretion. But, maybe we should all just care a little less about the way we dress and focus on how we treat and respect others first.

Anonymous said...

I read the blog titled “Seeing people by their outward appearance”, dated 12/5/10. This blog struck me because it is so true. We 100% judge and base most everything on outward appearance. If someone does not look “normal”, if someone wanted to wear their pajamas to church, if someone didn’t have nice/clean teeth or had messed up hair; the list goes on and one. This is not what the bible teaches us. God looks at our hearts and not the appearance and I think we need to be reminded of this every day.

I went through some of the other blog entries and just really liked how Dr. McNair related this to so many incidents we all come across and can relate to. It is sad to think the world is so judgmental and focused on outward appearance before getting to know one’s heart. I felt that this blog entry also related to the 18 wounds we are discussing in class as well. It definitely makes you think that you or someone you associate with may instantly be guilty of classifying someone into a “wound”, in terms of how people are devalued by society/us for their bodily or functional impairment. The minute we come to realize we may be guilty of this, we need to revaluate ourselves and remember what we are here for and what our Heavenly Father would want us to say and do. Reading our scriptures or praying would be a great way to do just that.

Sarah S. said...

I agree! People with disabilities do not care what others think of them. What bothers me, and it may just be me, is that I see siblings of someone with a disability wear fashionable clothes while the person with a disability wear clothes that are old, stained, to small, and clearly out of date. Do I care what they wear, no but what are we saying when this happens. I appreciate my students honesty. If I have something on my face, they tell me, if I have something stuck to my butt, they tell me, if I look tired, they ask if I need a break. How many other friends do I have that would tell me the same things but rather let my walk around with something on my face! Outward appearance does not matter, what matters is our hearts.

Kell9763 said...

I enjoyed this article and chuckled as I read it as I remembered Brad (Light and Power Class) often wearing an over sized pair of orange sweats...and to this day I have that picture of him...and I loved that he was his own person wearing exactly what he wanted...no matter what others or society thought of him...My favorite memory of Brad!

Anonymous said...

This article was an eye opener for me. There is such a social stigma in our culture that you have to dress and look a certain way to be accepted. As wrong as that is, it is the way of the times. Even in church, where everyone is supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ, there is still a push that you have to look and act a certain way or you just don’t fit in. That is not the way of the Lord and certainly should not go on in our churches.
If you extend this idea further it really shakes a finger at most of the churches today. If someone who wears pajamas is not welcome into a church because they look different, then how will someone with special needs be welcomed? As a society we really need to embrace the idea that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter how different we look or act.
I enjoyed reading about how those with disabilities do not care one way or another how people are dressed. This goes to show that there is a lot that we can take away from those with special needs. God has a plan for everyone no matter how they look, and that is something that we need to be reminded of.

16 September 2014

Anonymous said...

I agree with this article whole heartedly. We spoke in class the other night about how a person with down syndrome is the perfect example of someone to show God's love
and acceptance. However, a person with the appearance of someone with down syndrome would automatically be labeled by society as disabled, broken, and second class. In our society where everything that is so based on looks doesn't see these loving people for the great souls God has made them.
I tend to look at it this way that sin is our spiritual disability and we all suffer from our own disability. Depending on what our sins are society can judge us for these disabilities as well. The point is I think we need to aim to remember we can not judge physical or spiritual disabilities and we need to try and share God's love.

17 September 2015

Anonymous said...

I agree with this blog post as well. We live in a society that stresses appearance and how we present ourselves so much, and that can make it hard to remember to look past outer appearance. I do agree with the idea that how we present ourselves affects how others see us, and there is significance in that. However, I thought it was amazing how Dr. McNair's friends with intellectual abilities ONLY look at people by their true self, and not the outside appearance. It is refreshing, as he said. I honestly wish I were able to do the same. It is a daily struggle to not give in to our judgmental, sinful nature and rather, see all people as created in the image of God. Every one of us is made perfect in His sight and who are we to judge someone by their outside appearance before we even know them?

Alicia Marie said...

While reading this blog post, I had to question myself and where I stand on judging other peoples choice in appearance. It is sad, but almost all your life you are told to dress "nice" or "professionally" and not look "sloppy". But, if we spend all of our time and our money on living up to how others feel we should be dressing and looking, are we really getting the full value of life? Reading this blog post I felt that the two friends Dr. McNair mentions truly felt that one should not be judged based off of any outward appearance including clothing and style choices. They see a different value in life that is more at peace than the person worrying about being accepted through their outward appearance. Although, this is true, I still find myself struggling to feel that same way, and think less about my clothing and outward appearance. Being raised in this society, the normality of judging ones self and others based on outward appearance is extremely sad. After reading this post, I feel I will become more conscious of my own decisions as well as influence other peers to not be so critical of themselves and others outward appearance. This was an overall great post and really helped open my eyes on this perspective.

Anonymous said...

This post has made me think about my own view on judging people by their appearance. I have never put a lot of stock on the way I look. I dress casually on almost all occasions for convenience and comfort. I never have really thought about what people think of the way I dress because I have never cared. This post has made me think more about how our society views outward appearance. We live in an age where now more than ever, people are judged by their appearance. This fascination with looks is fueled by the popularity of social media that provide access to countless models and celebrities at any given time.Your friend's views on appearance show that they hold a virtue that is lost in a large part of modern society. People should be judged on how they act, not how they look. Vanity is something that can hold our society back from reaching our true potential and loving one another as we should. People like your friends that see people just as people help brighten a world where people can seem cruel.