I am sure you have heard these eight powerful words: “Do not judge a book by its cover”. This expression means that you should not judge someone just by the way they look or behave, nor should you conclude that someone’s outward appearance is exactly the same as who or what they are.

We live in communities where people cannot help but judge others. The reasons for this may be jealousy, insecurity or ignorance. Look at how people that come out of prison are treated by their own communities, as if they do not belong. As people we think and believe that other people, who do not conform to the norm, can’t change. Ehen, my brother-in-law was accused of molestation. I heard people in our community say, “You can tell from the way he looks that he is capable of doing it.”

They spoke as if they had proof that he had done it. Apparently if he was accused of something as serious as that, then he must’ve done it. How can we make someone feel welcome and accepted in their community when we are the people who judge them and make them feel like outsiders? There is a saying in many communities across South Africa, “Unity is power”, yet we as communities fail to be a united society.

For people who see themselves as different to the rest of everyone else or have done or gone through worse, it is not easy facing other people’s judgements. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own imperfections, faults and the grace that others are entitled to as we are. Never stop being yourself just because of the way that others perceive you to be. Remember that, when people don’t know the reasons why, they’ll always judge you.
I once read a book that had a short story which inspired me:

“A London business executive who arrived later than usual at Charing Cross railway station entered the tearoom to wait for the next train to his destination. Feeling rather peckish, he bought a packet of biscuits to accompany his cup of tea. The tearoom was crowded, as was usual at that time, so he was not surprised when another suited gentlemen asked to share his table. With typical English reserve, as between strangers, there was no conversation, and both of them were engrossed in reading their evening newspapers. However, he soon noticed the stranger helping himself to the biscuits on the table and he was speechless. The time soon came for him to board his train and off he went, still feeling incensed at the stranger’s ill-mannered behaviour. Having boarded his train he sat down in a first-class compartment and he opened his leather briefcase. Imagine to his surprised when doing so, he discovered an unopened packet of biscuits of the same kind he had eaten with his tea at Charing Cross station – the very same biscuits he thought the stranger had pilfered in such a bizarre manner.”

Imagine the embarrassment the executive felt when he thought about what his companion must’ve thought of him helping himself to what was not his – and how wrong he was of his opinion of the other man’s moral character. You can recognise the irony of this story can’t you? We all have misjudged people and their situations based on how we thought them to be, instead of taking the time to find out more about them. We’ve also experienced the humiliation of being wrong about someone. Our opinions of others are often based on insufficient evidence. I repeat, don’t ever judge a book by its cover.