I laugh quietly at the way we define ourselves in this world. We often feel obligated to answer key questions about our career, our marital status or our investments as if proving ourselves to someone. I enjoy listening to conversations in malls, on trains, in offices. (There’s that old joke about “be careful or you will end up in my novel.”) But I do like to listen to people as they get to know each other. There are “significant things” people want to know depending upon the person. Where are you from? What denomination are you? Where did you graduate from? How long have you worked there? Have you volunteered there long? Are you married? Do you have children? How many books have you published?
We put so much pressure on ourselves at times to live up to the expectations of other people. We want to please people with the answers to these questions. Sometimes we even feel tempted to fudge on our answers as if changing the answers could really change the truth. But does any one answer really define who we are? Is the fullness of my life summed up on my resume or in short introductions where I am told first impressions are a key to success?
I like to look deeper and try very hard to move beyond first impressions. I believe it’s the “insignificant” things make us unique and really define who we are. Take my girls, for instance. I can answer the “significant” things about each one of the. Yes, my daughters make good grades, play musical instruments, have a strong faith and are really good kids overall. I feel confident that they will be prepared for the future, whatever that holds. I know that education and strong roots are important. But I love the little things about them that you see only when you really get to know them, the things that others may see as insignificant.
One daughter refuses to let people make negative comments about others. She reminds those near her not to gossip, but to always find the positive in a person. One daughter sees the small things in life. She can find a ladybug or a tiny flower that I overlooked. She sees the rays of the sun before I do. Both daughters enjoy a good conversation. My daughters love mismatched socks. They draw hearts on their hands. They like cheese melted on saltine crackers. They fall asleep to music–one to contemporary Christian and one to soft rock or country music. Both like history. One eats peanut butter on a spoon. One cuts her own hair. One can’t whistle. One swings every day in our backyard. Both are artists with a unique vision.
Do we look for the unique personality traits and strengths in our family members, our friends and our co-workers? If not, we are missing out on a lot in life. Try throwing out first impressions and looking a little deeper. This makes the journey much more interesting as we discover more about those on the journey with us.