“We are like books. Most people only see our covers, the minority read only the introduction, many people believe the critics. Few will know our content.” ~ Emile Zola

What a great quote. We so quickly make up our minds without knowing the facts. Here are a couple of examples.

When we see the poor in our communities (if we see them at all), we ask, “Why don’t they just get a job?” But did you know that children raised in poverty are 75 times more likely to become poor adults? Not 75%. 75 times. That’s content. It’s looking beyond the cover. A child can’t help what socio-economic level he/she is born into.

And when we see the homeless in our communities (if we give them a second thought), we judge. But did you know that about half of homeless women have been victims of sexual violence and nearly three-quarters have been victims of physical violence? That’s content. It’s looking beyond the cover. It’s not just about homelessness. It’s about trauma.

But there’s one phrase in the quote that bugs me just as much. “Many people believe the critics.” How often do people jump on a bandwagon by reading opinions about a situation or person instead of going to the source itself? That’s like condemning a book before you’ve read it.

Maybe we’re just being practical. Reading a book takes time. So does getting to know someone to discover the content of their character. But think about it. We want people to get to know us before pigeon-holing (or condemning) us.  

It reminds me of the story about the pastor who spoke to a group of fellow pastors saying, “Most people don’t give a damn about the poor.” And the fellow pastors condemned him for his use of the word “damn” instead of addressing his point about the poor. How convenient.

But we do it all the time. In politics. In culture. In families. We get stuck in our narrow viewpoints and miss the content, because content takes time. But this is to our peril. We might be pleasantly surprised by stretching to read a certain book or getting to know someone different from us. Who knows? That’s the thing about not judging a book by its cover.

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