Editorial

The eye, and mouth, of the beholder

Dianne St. Jean

“Whatever you are, be a good one” – Abraham Lincoln

At a glance the above quote appears to be some good advice. Of course we know Lincoln was referring to the effort one should put into their career or purpose in life – and he’s right. If you are going to do something, do it to the best of your ability.

Now we can be facetious and take another viewpoint of Lincoln’s advice. What if you are a dictator, murderer, child abuser, thief, gossip? You get the idea. Taken from another perspective – more specifically, a twisted perspective, the advice is not so good. How we perceive things is therefore often more important than what we are actually seeing.

Let me give an example. A lady I know tends to see almost everything in a suspicious and negative light. At one time I wondered why every time I mentioned this person’s younger sister, her demeanor would change. She would become bristled and sarcastic, and make remarks with negative implications. From what I knew of the both of them, this reaction was not justified.

One day a group of us family and friends were sitting around and chatting, and someone brought up the question of how she could possibly afford going back to school. I mentioned how I knew that the younger sister had worked, restricted her spending money, and put the majority of her earnings in a savings account. After a year or two, she had saved enough to support her basic living expenses when she went to college. I noticed an immediate odd reaction. Some of the people there instantly looked at the older sister, who had an expression of embarrassed surprise. I came to realize later that, for whatever reason, she had presumed her younger sister’s parents were doling out cash and money to her sister, favoring her, and she had been bad-mouthing both her and the parents. To this day I don’t believe she realizes how her false assumptions had marred their relationships, but the worst results of her misconceptions were tainted reputations, something not so easily fixed, especially since she never owned up to others with the truth.

We need to be careful in how we look at things and others. One of the greatest of human flaws is to cruelly misjudge others, especially their intentions. When we falsely judge a person’s actions, and more importantly, their intentions, we begin to see things that often are not really there. Ironically, we often turn ourselves into the very negative thing we accuse others of. Sadly, not only their reputation suffers, but ours as well.

So, by all means, as Lincoln says, whatever you choose to be, be a good one; but something else should be added to the mix. Make sure that who and what you are brings good, and not evil.