Human Chameleons: Who Do You Think They Are?
By Harold Markham
“Don’t judge a book by the cover.” ”Beauty is only skin deep.” “Not all that glitters is gold.” Many of our timeless proverbs indicate that people may not be who we think they are. Someone has well noted that individuals are trinitarian. Each has a persona that he wants others to hold, while he, himself has a self-view to which he adheres, and then there is the truth or reality as God sees people. It is not uncommon for someone to be like a chameleon—blending in with his surroundings. Peer pressure studies have been part of psychological experiments since the early nineteenth century.People may not always be who they seem to be. Shocker—right? People change to try and fit in with the group they want to identify with the most. Life experience, current events and popular music culture all show us the reality of this fact.
"To blend in with the rest of the speaking world, Mary overcame and hid her deafness...."
Most young children are fascinated with superheroes. Clark Kent was really Superman! Dianna Prince was Wonder Woman. No one in the comic universe is as they seem. But that is not unusual. Personal experiences remind of this truth. Consider the true story of Mark and Mary. One day Mary was standing in line at a local McDonald's in Commerce, Georgia. Along came Mark, a friendly young man who observed Mary chatting and laughing with her college friends. While waiting for service, Mark smiled brightly and with all his charismatic charm leaned over close to Mary, introduced himself and said hello just a head space behind Mary. Mark expected a startled smile, some giggles and hopefully a hello in return. Mary did not respond positively. With her eyes fixed straight ahead, Mary continued with her business as if young Mark never existed. Grumbling to himself, Mark concluded that even though Mary appeared friendly and fun she was really stuck up and snobbish. She was not as she appeared. What Mark did not know was that Mary had been deaf since birth and was a skilled lip reader. She had been in a special program in the New York School for the deaf that taught her how to speak and interact with oral communication. Mary was no snob. She was deaf. To blend in with the rest of the speaking world, Mary overcame and hid her deafness with great success. Mark was wrong twice. Mary never responded to him because she never heard him. Mary’s integration into the speaking world was so successful that Mark never knew about her deafness. Much to his delight, Mark was informed about Mary’s deafness by one of Mary’s friends and he eventually wed the sweet chameleon.
Not all stories about false personas are so noble. Take the case of Ernest Addo of Austell, Georgia. Earnest worked as a doctor for Agape Medical for over six months. After treating many patients and practicing his craft he was arrested because he was not even a real doctor! In August 2012 it was discovered that he had stolen the identity of a friend and had used it to gain employment with the medical group (Sada). Perhaps not everyone steals an identity like this thief, but each person is tempted more or less to blend in with a certain group for some potential benefit. Perhaps it is for money, fame, social acceptance, peace, romance or a dozen other motivations. Just think fads would never exist without this type of practice. Birds of a feather do flock together and people change to blend in with the flock that surrounds them.
Are You a Chameleon?
I hide who I really am around certain people.
Consider the lyrics of this song by Mobb Deep (Deep)”
“Gotta find a way, to get accepted by my peers
So now I'm sippin' on beers
Buyin' new gear, nothin' but the best
Forget Levi's strictly Polo and Guess
But how would I make the cash?
It gotta be easy and it gotta be fast
Thinkin' to myself does that make me lesser
Just, dealin' with the peer pressure”
Notice how the author speaks of compromise and the plummet into crime it leads. Peer pressure is real.Popular culture embraces the idea that people will conform to a group. People will lie, conceal, boast, pretend, act, say and generally behave in ways that endear and identity them with their peer group. This is both positive and negative. A culture can keep unhealthy behaviors in check or it can dominate and imprison like a fascist Nazi cult. Some have well observed that what a person really is can be determined by what he would do if there was zero accountability. However, pressure reveals truth and turns coal into diamonds. How much will a person compromise and change determines the strength of his character.
Personal experience teaches that people are not who they seem to be. People have preformed opinions and are led to think things about an individual that may turn out to be very untrue. The news constantly illustrates this fact with both positive and negative examples of people acting in certain ways in order to fit in. Popular culture reflected in our music and songs sing us the sad stories of people wanting to fit in and compromising the truth about who they really are. People may not always be who they seem to be.
Sada, Abdul. “Fake doctor who treated 500 patients arrested in Georgia” The Giro NBC News. 12 August 2012. Web. 7 March 2013.
Deep, Mobb. “Peer Pressure” http://www.metrolyrics.com/peer-pressure-lyrics-mobb-deep.html, Web. 7 March 2013.