Thursday, November 5, 2009

More Than Meets the Eye

The other day a couple of colleagues and I were talking about health care. It's a big topic these days. As part of the conversation, one of the men said he thought that overweight people just needed to be educated. He pointed to some of his in-laws who worked out at the gym but couldn't lose weight, "because they go home and eat donuts afterward."

Now, this man is a good person, and since this was a business relationship, I merely said that wisdom did not equate to intelligence. But I really wanted to say a lot more. Basically, he was saying that overweight people are either ignorant, stupid, or both. Following his line of reasoning, Nobel Laureates should all be very fit. They're not. Doctors should not ever have weight problems. But they do. And if his premise were true about overweight people, would it not also apply to alcoholics, smokers, drug addicts? Doctors, dentists, and nurses are particularly at risk for drug addiction. Is there any class of people who is more educated about the risks of drug abuse? I wanted to ask if another colleague, a very talented, bright, well-educated man with a severe weight problem were either ignorant or stupid. The obvious answer is "no."

Human behavior is far, far more complex than that. There are as many reasons for unhealthy behavior as there are people. We are all different.

But it is so easy to forget that. Hollywood sure doesn't help. All the successful, smart, happy people are good looking, fit, trim. Those Hollywood wants to make fun of are ugly, fat, stupid, or usually all three. For women it's many times worse than it is for men. The ideal female body image promoted in the media is so thin that only a starveling can qualify—unless of course the females in question have hyper-inflated breasts. We do cut them some slack for that. It has reached the point that even stick-thin models are Photoshopped to make them look thinner.

And we all do the same thing in our personal lives. It is very hard not to judge people based on their appearance. We tend to drop people into convenient categories—successful, old, thin, young, loser, beautiful, ugly, sexy, bald, alcoholic—you get the point. We look at the outside and decide instantly who is interesting, who is not, who is worthy, and who is a waste of time.

James talked about this, in terms of rich and poor, but it applies also to fat and thin, young and old, pretty or plain:

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
James 2:2-4

James doesn't pull many punches, folks. You can see what he calls this: evil thoughts. Just in case you didn't know, when the Bible calls something evil . . . that's a bad thing.
It is good to be fit. It's good to be free of addictions. It's good to be whole, and healthy, and strong, and emotionally stable. But everyone is coming from a different place. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, differing desires and dreams.

Everyone has a back story. Some stories are horrible. Some seem pretty normal to us. But everyone has some kind of wound, and if we knew the story, knew the wound, we might not be so quick to judge. But whether or not we ever hear the story, we know that there is more there than meets the eye.

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