Have you ever thought about those things in life whose existence are so temporary, that once you give them away or lose them, they can never be replaced? Admittedly, it is not a thought that I like to dwell on because the weight of such a loss is depressing and beyond my control. However, impressions are one of those concepts that made my list of what I wish I could go back to my younger self and explain its importance.
I would explain that unfortunately, regardless of how much I don’t like the concept, people will judge me based on first impressions. That the laissez faire attitude I was so apt to adopt in my college years has repercussions. My wife and I were talking about our Meyers-Briggs personality types and mine is prone to apathy. (I am ISTP for the record). It caused me to wonder how many people passed me by because I gave off the wrong impression.
I started college life poor. Not in your typical “all college students are poor” fashion. By the time I went to college, I had been on my own since 15 years old, living with my best friend. A deacon from my church drove me to college and dropped me off. I brought home $25 every two weeks after tuition was paid. When my wife met me for the first time, there were holes in my socks and jeans. In fact, I was so poor that I could not afford glasses. So when people would wave “hi” across campus, I ignored them because I simply didn’t see them. What impression did I give off?
While I dated my wife, I dyed my hair various colors (Atlantic Blue being my favorite), had an eyebrow ring, wore “punk” clothes. I was fond of using a safety pin for a substitute earring. At one point, I braided the “power bracelet” into my hair. You know the red, green, blue, white & yellow beaded one that you could use to share the gospel… What impression did I give off?
What about the here and now? When I lose my patience with my kids in public, what sorts of impressions am I giving?
Obviously, poverty is beyond my control. At the same time, I wonder how many interesting people I wrongly judged based on their first impression. Dustin Hoffman captured this concept perfectly in an interview about the women in life he passed up:
I own my punk look and believe that you adapt according to the needs of those around you. Let’s face it, some people won’t talk to you unless you are covered in tats. So there is a place for the punk rockers, the hardcore motorcyclists, the richly dressed.
God is willing to use the prince and the pauper alike.