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Social Issues: Looking Beyond The Surface

Updated on March 31, 2013

A Spring rain turned the skies to gray today and a thick fog settled over the area. At first glance, this place I call home is ugly; horribly ugly. Evidence of prior storms is everywhere as limbs hang broken or torn from the ancient trees. Recent snows have left the earth saturated and mud has made its way from the shoulder of the roads onto city streets.

As I drove through the city, my thoughts began to turn as gray as the sky. I felt my mood sinking until… that voice that comes to me at unexpected times spoke once again. The voice said to me – “look beyond the surface”.

Pulling over to the edge of the road, I repeated the phrase to myself. “Look beyond the surface”. Knowing that there was a lesson in this simple phrase, I began to scan the area with my soft vision. I call it soft vision because it allows me to see the world from a softer perspective. Soft vision is free of judgment and biased opinion. I learned this technique several years ago when I took a class in Animal Tracking. You can read about that experience by clicking here.

The Lesson

Looking beyond the surface, I began to understand what the voice wanted me to remember. The voice wanted me to cast away the negative thinking and remember that new growth is lying just beneath the surface of those broken old trees. Spring is here. Soon, the temperatures will remain above 50 degrees and those tender green shoots of new leaves will burst from their winter hiding place. In just a few days, the pale flowers of the Dogwoods and Bradford Pear trees will decorate the landscape around me. The mud on the shoulder of the road will dry and blow away in a fine red cloud of dust. Yes, there is new life just below the surface and it is ready to take its place in the world.

Another Layer in the Lesson

These lessons come to me at the oddest times and places and they are always multi-dimensional. I know this lesson on looking beyond the surface is about more than the landscape. I begin to think how this lesson might apply to people. I allowed my mind to drift and images of the unfamiliar faces of men, women, and children began to flow through my mind’s eye. I saw them in their day-to-day struggle for survival and I knew this lesson was bigger than me. It was a lesson about our society and how quickly we assume we know someone yet never look beyond that first impression. Don’t we all have circumstances in our lives that we don’t want to wear as a banner?

We are so quick to judge others from the first impression they make. In this small moment of contemplation, I am reminded of how unfair that is. We all have days when our appearance isn’t the best. We all have days when we just don’t care what our hair looks like or we throw on the old clothes because we have no plans to go out. Inevitably, that is the day that the doorbell rings and we stand face to face with the one person on earth we wouldn’t want to see on a grunge day. Skip a shower one night and the universe will laugh and make sure you have to run out to the store or your spouse’s boss will stop by. It happens to all of us but… we are NOT our clothes. We are NOT our messy, dirty hair. We are just human beings taking a day off to be a grunge. And, we got caught.

We must question ourselves before judging

The truth is, we are just average people who occasionally don’t look our best. Before we judge others on a first impression, it might be helpful to ask ourselves some questions.

  • Is she a mother who has been up all night with a sick child?
  • Did he just finish working a 12 hour shift on his second job?
  • Are they part of this “sandwich generation”; the caregivers for their aging parents, and their grandchildren too?
  • Was she sexually violated by her husband’s brother earlier today?
  • Is social services trying to take his children away because he was late paying child support this month?
  • Is her boyfriend forcing her into prostitution to help pay for his drug habit?

Will You Look Beyond the Surface?

Our lives are complex and they are becoming more complicated by economic stress and peer pressure. We are more than what we appear on the surface and perhaps if someone cared enough to look, we could bloom like the trees of Spring. If someone would look beyond the surface, perhaps they would see the potential in a young life or the creative genius that has been suppressed by the complications of a relationship. Perhaps there is a poem or a song waiting to be heard or a design waiting to make its way to a canvas.

Could it be that beyond the surface of the uneducated is a brilliant mind? Is there a dedicated employee underneath the surface of the unemployed? Is there a tender smile hiding in the face of the young wife who is unappreciated? Does the young man working for a minimum wage have a God-given talent for technology that is being wasted because no one has offered encouragement?

There is hidden potential in every human being and sometimes it is just waiting for someone to notice. Perhaps if we took the time to “look beyond the surface” we would discover the beauty in others. Maybe someone would see the beauty that lies within us too.

First impressions are not always accurate. What is hiding beyond the surface? Do you care?

© 2013 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.

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  • phdast7 profile image

    Theresa Ast 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

    An important and much needed message and reminder. Its so easy to make snap judgments and so hard to be thoughtful and careful. This is very well written Linda and I appreciate the reminder. Sharing. Theresa

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Cantuhearmescream - I know no other way. lol Thanks for the visit.

  • Cantuhearmescream profile image

    Cat 4 years ago from New York

    Irc7815,

    Thank you for speaking up and speaking out! :-)

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Lovedoctor, I understand our words and for a time, I felt very much the same. I began to isolate myself until I realized that by doing that, I was letting the evil i society win. Now, I choose to engate strangers; to find out what they are about. It's interesting to hear their stories and learn what made them the person they are today and I learn so much from that effort. There will always be evil in the world but there is far more good still. We just have to look a little deeper to find it sometimes.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Cantuhearmescream - I am so happy that you visited today. Thank you for sharing and voting and for understanding the message.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Leslie, with friends like you who leave messages like yours on my ramblings, I could never be depressed. Wow, you made me feel worthy of this air I breathe. There are times I wish I wasn't so well endowed with the psychological tool box. My mind never stops analyzing the things the universe throws in front of me. I know and believe thee are lessons in everything that happens to me and when I try to ignore it, it only reappears larger and louder. You are far too generous with your words but I humbly accept and apprectiate them. You have an enormous fan here too because I love your spirit and be-damned attitude. Hugs!

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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    rasta1 - it's good to see you again. Reggae is a good addition to any day in my opinion. Thank you for the visit. Peace and love to you.

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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    KTBanks - thanks so much. I appreciate you.

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    lovedoctor926 4 years ago

    "There is hidden potential in every human being and sometimes it is just waiting for someone to notice. Perhaps if we took the time to “look beyond the surface” we would discover the beauty in others. Maybe someone would see the beauty that lies within us too." This is the most important message in your hub. I found this hub useful. I'm pretty much fet up with society these days and how quickly people are to point fingers at others. Many people are mean and judgmental, which is why I don't have too many friends to begin with. These days you're better off keeping people at a distance until you get to know them really well.

  • Cantuhearmescream profile image

    Cat 4 years ago from New York

    Irc7815,

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! This should be on everyone's log in screen on their personal computers. I think about this all the time and you put it so eloquently. We are living in a place and time where so many focus on the unimportant factors and forget about the little things. I was probably the kid, the same as every other, and I'm sure I hurt a feeling or two. The older I get the more I realize how people are not what you see when you pass them by. So many people are critics about flaws, I love despite flaws and more recently I have learned to love because of flaws. We are all human, we all err; a flaw is only a reminder that we are more equal than we think. We all have room for growth and so there is no room to knock someone down. I love your message and I'm so glad you shared!

    Voted up, beautiful and awesome!

  • ImKarn23 profile image

    Karen Silverman 4 years ago

    we are soooo quick to jump to conclusions - and then so committed to them! odd...

    you could have chosen to become depressed - the gloomy day, the mucky roads - the boring beige of it all - it would have been easy..

    But - you have amazing tools in your psychological tool-box! You took the time- and were able to - see beneath - see more - see the potential..the promise..

    i wish more could take that extra moment - care enough to understand..

    Please - never stop showing us the way, dear friend!

    You are all heart - all optimism - all faith... all wisdom..all empathy..

    and i love you for it.

    sharing on..

  • rasta1 profile image

    Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

    It was enlightening listening some reggae music while reading your hub. It has humbled me.

  • KT Banks profile image

    KT Banks 4 years ago from Texas

    Powerful message here, lrc7815. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Shauna, thank you so much. It was a bit of self-inspection that led to this piece once the message came through loud and clear.

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Thank you MH. You have given more than your share to your community and I know it is sad to see things that you worked hard for fail under new leadership.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

    Linda, this is such an important message. You presented it in a way that causes the reader to stop and think about his or her own judgement of others. Well said, my friend!

  • Mhatter99 profile image

    Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

    Once again great message. I was approached by some neighborhood merchant to start a neighborhood watch. working with our police station and getting the right volunteers we were able to accomplish this. We even got a church to be our monthly meeting place. I found out that 2013 the watch was closing up. Lack of something. Lesson...

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Vickiw - thanks for stopping by. These messages come to me as lessons because - I need to remember. It sure is easy to say and harder to do.

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    Vickiw 4 years ago

    I am always so pleased to have messages like this one. It is something that we all know we should embrace, but, like other things, it is often easier to say than practice in every day life. I do try though!

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Kindred, no sermon from this sinner today. I am as imperfect as they come and although I try and try t do better, I don't always. Thus, the lessons that keep jumping out it front of me no matter what I'm doing. lol Thanks for being my friend. I made a first impression judgment on you and have not been disappointed. Hugs!

  • lrc7815 profile image
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    Linda Crist 4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Jim! We are all guilty I think and it's easy to do and harder to correct. We are all a work in progress. Thankfully, many of us are willing to share our weaknesses and our lessons to help others and in the process, we grow too. My snap judgment today is that xstatic is a good guy. :-)

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    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Powerful message on this Easter! I know I am as guilty of this as anyone and it is something I have to remind myself of daily. There is great depth in human beings. We must be willing to look deeper than the surface to find the true person.

    Excellent Easter sermon. :) Thanks, Kindred!

  • xstatic profile image

    Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

    This is such a good reminder to "look beyond the surface." I have been guilty all my life of making the kind of snap judgments that first impressions invite, and must fight that impulse still.