My mother, as lovely as she is, ran a tight ship when we were growing up. She always kept a very tidy house, even with five kids. So imagine my shock the other day when, looking for a towel, I discovered her linen dresser in disarray.
What is this?
Washcloths and sheets in the same drawer?
I took a second look at her home and wondered if perhaps she wasn’t the same person who raised me to color-code my sock drawer: a few stray crumbs on the kitchen counter, books stacked precariously out of place, stray bits of yarn under the craft table.
Clearly, something was amiss. Something had changed and I hadn’t even noticed it.
Of course, people can change. But what struck me is that if I’d just met her that day, I’d never know about her neatnik, germophobe, slightly OCD self from the past. If I was seeing her home for the very first time, I’d probably think, in addition to “what an interesting, creative, accomplished person,” that she was fairly easy-going, casual and although organized, not rigid.
Yet I still have her voice in my head every time I consider scrubbing the underside of the refrigerator door, just in case an earlier spill escaped my attention. Of course, her voice in my head is saying, “Well, why wouldn’t you? What are you waiting for?”
The point is that I have a very definite image of my mother, dating back to my first impressions of her. The reality, though, is that she no longer fits that image, and it would be very unfair of me to still see her that way.
I wonder how many times in the past I’d done the same thing with other people, especially with potential dates. How many times did a first impression become a barrier?
Was it really fair of me to rule out a convert, or a smoker, or someone whose musical taste I didn’t like? Did I really skip over a profile just because it had a few grammatical mistakes or a poorly-lit photo?
We tend to look at the profile as the means through which we filter out the people who we think are wrong for us. What we base this filter on is our very first impression of the profile.
I wonder how many more opportunities we’d have if we looked at the profile as a first step instead of a first impression.
First impressions, according to conventional wisdom, are what should guide us to judge a person. Studies have shown that employers decide if they’re going to hire someone within 30 seconds of meeting them, regardless of what a candidate says or does for the rest of the interview.
We could all agree that this really isn’t fair or charitable or even logical. But think about it: Don’t we do the same thing on CatholicMatch? I think most people look at the thumbnail and decide if they even want to browse the profile. It takes far less than 30 seconds too. That seems even more unfair and uncharitable.
I know that’s exactly what I’ve done in the past. Lately I’ve been wondering just what I accomplished by doing that. I might have missed out on meeting a really great person.
What’s funny is that I never dismissed people on CatholicMatch if I considered them friends. One CatholicMatch friend in particular is very dear to me, despite our vast differences. If I’d ever been interested in him as more than a friend and then looked at his posts in the War Room or read the “seeking” section of his profile, I’d have stopped talking to him a long time ago. And if I did that, I would have missed out on hours of wonderful conversations, unfailing support, excellent advice, rollicking jokes and a few great recipes.
Wouldn’t it have been a shame if I’d dismissed this friend over a few errors in punctuation or an unflattering picture?
The reality is that I’m far more forgiving of a few differences when I’m not romantically interested. The more I think about it, the more I realize I have many friends who made first impressions on me that were inaccurate or whose faults were easily overlooked.
And there is the lesson: If I can overlook a few minor faults and still manage to have a wonderful friendship, shouldn’t the same hold for a potential partner? Who knows what kind of wonderful relationship could be on the horizon if I just considered the profile as a first step?
Yesterday I visited my mother in her less-than-sterile but much more comfortable home and was most thankful that I no longer saw her as the woman who taught me to pour boiling water over my toothbrush twice daily. We shared a muffin, letting the crumbs linger on the table.
I understood that if I never let go of my initial image of her, I’d never enjoy the person she’s become. I would not have even tasted that half of a muffin; I’d be too concerned with wiping up the crumbs. This was the lesson, once again: to look beyond first impressions.
I then vowed to look beyond first impressions more often, knowing that I’m far more likely to meet a lot of great people and form wonderful friendships – and who knows what else? When the filters are removed, the possibilities are endless!