This post is something I want to expand on at some point, maybe dig in and get some research, but for now, it is mainly just a question that I have gone over a million times in my mind and still haven’t figured out. What is the line between making a judgement of someone based on a first impression versus trusting your instinct and going with your first read of a person?
Now, we all meet people on a regular basis in which this question doesn’t even ultimately matter. As someone who likes to study people, I tend to do a lot of thinking about and reading into people that I will never see again. Kind of a waste of time, but kind of a weird hobby, if you can call it that. I think all sorts of things like “That person seems really enthusiastic and fun-loving. I’ll bet they enjoy life.” “That guy seems really reserved, but I’ll bet he’s a friendly dude once you get to know him.” “That one really thinks highly of himself.” “She acts like she thinks really highly of herself, but I think she’s really insecure.” “I feel like that guy isn’t always telling the truth.”
All of those observations are pretty meaningless for one-time encounters–you know, when you meet your friend’s neighbor’s niece who is visiting for a weekend from out of state. But do those kinds of observations hold more value if it is someone that you’ll be crossing paths with more than once in awhile? Does “guy who thinks too highly of himself” mean a red flag if he’s your new co-worker? How about “insecure girl” who is your new friend at the gym? How about “questionable truth teller” who becomes your church leader? Do first impressions say something? Can you trust your gut instincts about a person even if you have absolutely no proof otherwise to be cautious of them or not trust them or avoid them?
Once again I have to speak against judgements. More than once I have been wrongly judged based on a first impression (although I’m glad I learned about it in hopes of not giving that same first impression to someone else!). I have also watched a person of great character not get a fair shake from the gossip mill because of misleading first impressions. I want to try hard to give people a fair chance to disprove any false notions I get about them. But I’ve also gotten burned by people I kept giving way too many chances to. My husband laughs about a couple of situations in which his first impressions inclined him to want to avoid the “impression-giver”. I accused him of not giving the person a chance, only to find out the hard way that my husband’s misgivings were right. I think I might be a person who needs to give more weight to my initial read of a person.
So what’s the final word? Is there any Godly wisdom in valuing first impressions? Is there any research or studies that say something about the kind of first impression someone gives? Does anyone have any experiences that incline them to say “go with your gut and wisely avoid dangerous people” or “ignore first impressions and fully, even foolishly, invest in people, no matter the risk.” What did Christ do?