The Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance ... for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."
-1 Samuel 16:7 (NRSV)
Vanity. We all experience it. We all hate it. We all have it. From the time we were young, most of us have been told not to judge a book by its cover. Yet, around every corner is a reminder that to most of us, beauty is skin deep. It’s on billboards with scantily clad models. It’s on the front of magazines. I even had a friend who refuses to go to the gym without having either his hair fixed or a hat on- he’s afraid of what people would think to see him as he is.
I am as guilty as anyone. When I first meet someone, most of the times I judge them based on their appearance. Eventually, I look into their heart, but unmistakably, my impression is formed based on their appearances. I find many people to be beautiful outwardly, with enormous pain on the inside. Others who may be no beauty to look at, have hearts yearning to care.
I’ll admit, I don’t go to the gym 4 or 5 days a week because I like to work out. I don’t run because I find it relaxing. No, I hate it. I don’t eat healthy because I like salad and grilled foods. Give me bacon and butter any day of the week. I do all of these things to be healthy yes, but primarily, to look good in a t-shirt. Yes, I let vanity consume a few hours of every day.
But what if, we focused just a fraction of our time being vain on getting to know someone’s heart? I can recall meeting a good friend of mine a while back, and my first impression was that he was a fratty jock who cared about nothing more than partying and meeting women. But as I got to know him, I realize he cares more about helping people achieve their goals, and ultimately wants to teach, so that he can better influence future generations. Had I allowed my first impression to shape how I saw him, I would have missed out on a great friendship.
Starting today, ignore outwards appearances. Seek to understand others for who they are, not what they look like. Seek to know their hearts, and you will know true beauty.