A woman walked past my volunteer post at the hospital holding papers up in a way that hid her face. Without a second thought, I wondered why she was hiding her identity, and my mind began producing possible scenarios that would explain the suspicious behavior. As she turned to exit, though, I noticed a small mobile phone held to her ear. An action that appeared intended to conceal nefarious purposes was, in fact, an effort to multitask with her left hand.
That trivial example of misjudging appearances illustrates my tendency to jump to conclusions. But if I were the only one who made such leaps of assumption this world would be a far better place. I think the limb upon which I stand is strong enough for me to state one generalization: All of us make judgments based on partial or wrong information. And my justification for climbing out on that limb? Only God knows a person's inner thoughts and motivations. Those of us who presume upon such insight are, perhaps without realizing it, trying to usurp God's unique authority.
I think I've established beyond reasonable doubt that much of what we think we know about others and their actions is partially or wholly untrue. So, where do we get that bogus info? Much of it stems from appearances that suggest stereotypes we've accepted as true throughout much of our lives.
Maybe a stocky, blond kid bullied you in school, so now you don't like stocky, blond people. Put a stocky, blond person next to you at work and everything the guy does rubs you the wrong way. Or you've moved, and you're visiting churches to see if you can find a good fit. To your dismay, you discover that the stocky, blond person over there smiling and shaking hands with people is the pastor. Your reaction? "Oh man! And I thought these folks were so nice ... must be a cult."
While most folks harbor unintentional or rationalized prejudices, there are Those among us for Whom personal error is inconceivable. Anyone who disagrees with Them, or in any way fails to live up to Their God-given standard of perfection can't be tolerated.
Don't you just hate people like that? If you agree, stand up and hang your head in shame; you've just judged those who seem self-righteous. And whose job is it to judge? That's right.