“Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” NLT John 7:24
Recently, I traveled to apart of the Birmingham, Alabama metro area that I had never visited before. This was a part of town I was very unfamiliar with and decided to wait until I arrived in town to find a safe hotel. As a result, I drove around to find a hotel, which led me to stay with a company I had never stayed with before. My decision to stay with this company was based on two factors. First, the price was competitive with the other local hotels. Second, the front lobby seduced me with its looks and first impression. Despite its allure, I was reminded of the importance of first impressions in that there is more to a situation or a person than an initial first meeting. Simply put, I learned the following:
1. First Impressions Matter
The old saying is, “You only get to make a first impression once.” The front lobby of this hotel emotionally sold me on its first impression. It had a very cottage-home like feel with hardwood floors, a nice staircase, and even a bookshelf that allowed you to check out books. Overall, it was something I had not seen before and since the price was right I was sold on the lobby alone. Therefore, the hotel’s first impression stimulated within me an emotional response that can kept me from digging further into the locations current details.
2. First Impressions Matter, But Dig Deeper.
First impressions only provide a snapshot of an institution or person’s character. We may see them on a bad day or on a really good day. Either time, we usually do not know enough to make an accurate decision from just one meeting. More specifically, if I had gone ten steps beyond the hotel’s front lobby I would have discovered more information about the hotel’s character. I would have realized the hotel was under renovation. This fact alone affected my stay due to some of the noise and was not revealed to me on my arrival. If the staff had told me about the renovation I would have considered another hotel, but it is unfair to only blame the staff. It was my responsibility to further investigate the hotel beyond the first impression they gave. This would have allowed me to have an accurate understanding of the hotel’s details. Similarly, I believe people should be treated in the same way because we owe it to the individual and ourselves to truly discover if a person is someone of high quality or a person we should be cautious about.
In conclusion, whether we like it or not our first impressions matter. We do prejudge people before we know them no matter how much we quote (or misquote) Matthew 7:1 that says, “Judge not that you not be judged.” This is normal, but it does not have to define how we permanently view anything or anyone. For us to dogmatically base our opinion of anything on a first impression is for us to be foolish. Practically we will find in many cases that the people or institutions we initially judge will disappoint us at some point. Therefore, I want to encourage us all to remain pleasant as we patiently look “beneath the surface so we can judge correctly.” Doing so will save us a lot of headaches in the long-run and might lead us to beautiful relationships that our first impressions would have never allowed.
What do you think about first impressions? Are they a good indicator or do you think going beyond the surface is needed? What have I missed as I welcome your respectful dialog?