Website owner:  James Miller

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Sizing up people

   This world is full of surprises.  Reality is so often so very 
   different from the appearance.  That attractive woman that 
   dresses so well and always looks so neat and sharp is actually 
   a slovenly, untidy, negligent person whose house looks as if it 
   had been hit by a hurricane.  That lovely couple that seem so 
   nice, living in that big, impressive house, are actually living 
   from paycheck to paycheck, are always in need of money, and, in 
   fact, have made repeated trips up to see the man's widowed 
   mother begging for money.  More than that, they are very 
   anxiously waiting for her to die, so they can have her estate.  
   That TV preacher that sounds so sincere and convincing and has 
   such a huge audience suddenly appears in all the newspaper 
   headlines for doing things that preachers ought not be doing.

   Life is full of illusion and deception.  The appearance that a 
   person presents to friends and acquaintances outside the home 
   may be quite different from that real person that his spouse 
   and family knows. 

   When we meet a person for the first time and talk with him for 
   a little while we gain some initial impressions of him.  He 
   unconsciously gives up a certain amount of information about 
   himself.  From his words, his grammar, etc. we may gain some 
   idea of his intellectual stature, how much education he has, 
   etc.  We may note things like shyness, boldness, quietness, 
   talkativeness, politeness, rudeness, coarseness, pride, 
   humility, friendliness, unfriendliness, self-confidence, 
   pleasantness, seriousness.  Just how closely the impressions 
   come to the truth is dependent on how good we are at picking up 
   signs and interpreting the information.

   Some people are really great talkers.  Some people can be very 
   charming and likable.  They can impress us.  We are almost 
   forced to like them.  It is only with time, after we know more 
   about them, have had more experience with them, that we like 
   them less.  Often great talkers are also great liars.

   People have sets of traits, ways, attitudes, outlooks, beliefs 
   and habits that define them.  And people almost never change.  
   They tend to acquire a set of personal ways, traits and 
   tendencies when they are young that define them for their life.  
   Once the habits, tendencies, and behavior patterns of youth 
   have solidified, crystalized, they rarely change.  It is said 
   that a leopard cannot change his spots.  People generally don't 
   change in their basic inclination and nature, once it has 
   crystalized.  Some people are energetic, hard working, and 
   perseverant.  Others are lazy and put very little effort into 
   life.  Some people are workers and some just play.  Some people 
   are kind and caring.  Some are con artists who care about no 
   one and would rip off anyone.  A con artist is always a con 
   artist.  An honest man remains an honest man.  A lazy person 
   remains lazy.  I think it is possible, through the Christian 
   message of repentance, for a person to change at the most basic 
   level, but in my observation of life, I think it happens very 
   rarely.  From what I have observed, the general rule is that 
   people never change.  The proud man was probably proud as a 
   child and remains proud all his life.  The malicious, 
   vindictive person probably became that way as a child and will 
   remain so for all his life.  Personality traits are habits and 
   habits, once set, rarely change. 

   In regard to any particular personality trait that we might 
   mention there is generally a gigantic spectrum.  In regard to 
   the trait of industriousness there are some people who are 
   extremely hard working at one end of the spectrum and people 
   who never work, just play, at the other end.  There are some 
   people who are very energetic, filled with energy, and there 
   are others at the other end of the spectrum who are extremely 
   lazy, lethargic and apathetic, who put nothing into life.  Some 
   people are filled with enthusiasm, other people have none.  In 
   regard to perseverance, there are some people who are extremely 
   perseverant, who will never quit, never admit defeat, and there 
   are others who will scarcely try, who give up almost before 
   they start.  In regard to honesty, there are some people who 
   are extremely honest and there are others who are totally 
   dishonest.  There are some people who are very kind and 
   considerate of others at one end of the spectrum and there are 
   people who are hard, cruel and even gain pleasure from hurting 
   others at the other end of the spectrum.  There are those who 
   are extremely proud and arrogant at one end and those who are 
   very meek and humble at the other end.  There are some people 
   who are extremely self-reliant and others who are extremely 
   dependent.  There are some people who are extremely 
   conscientious and others who are extremely negligent, careless, 
   lax and indifferent.  There are some people who are very 
   disciplined and others who have no self-discipline.  There are 
   some people who have great self-confidence and others who lack 
   greatly in self-confidence.  In regard to personal moral 
   standards, some people have very high moral standards and 
   others have none.  In regard to thoughtfulness, there are some 
   people who are very much inclined towards thought and 
   reflection and others who have no tendencies in that direction 
   at all.  Some people are very organized and methodical and 
   others are a total disaster.  Some people are very frugal and 
   others can't save a penny.  If we could list a hundred 
   different personal traits such as we have listed above we would 
   have a huge spectrum for each one and that means that there are 
   gigantic differences between people.  Not only do people differ 
   radically in personal traits but also in attitudes, outlooks, 
   values and beliefs. 

   In observing other people much depends on the eye of the 
   beholder.  Much depends on the observer's outlooks, attitudes 
   and values.  For example, when a person tells me he will do a 
   thing and then doesn't do it, it is something that I will note 
   and remember.  Others might not take note of it or care about 
   it.  For me it is an important piece of information about him.  
   I am partial to honest people who do what they say.  I am 
   biased against dishonest people.  A person's honesty, or lack 
   of it, is very important to me.

   To understand what kind of person someone is you observe him.  
   You observe conduct.  You note things they say.  Things they do 
   give clues to how honest they are, how just they are, how kind 
   they are.  Behavior provides clues on things like selfishness, 
   self-centeredness, trustworthiness.  Things they say gives 
   clues to their outlooks, values, and beliefs.  To understand 
   what their personality traits are, what kind of material they 
   are made out of, what their good points and faults are, you 
   must observe their behavior.  Observe it over a period of time.  
   We build up our knowledge of a person with observation over 
   time.  People unwittingly give up information about themselves 
   one bit at a time.  To discover that set of attitudes, values, 
   ways, habits and character traits that define a particular 
   person you must observe conduct.  The people we know the best 
   are people we have lived with for a sizable length of time.  
   We know, for example, the personal traits and idiosyncrasies of 
   our parents, siblings and spouses very well.  And much of our 
   knowledge of them comes from a multitude of small incidents.  
   We know their tendencies and inclinations, we know what we can 
   expect from them.  We know them.  

   Initial impressions formed from appearances and glib talk can 
   be deceiving.  Personality traits reveal themselves through 
   behavior, actions.  Things like honesty, dishonesty, diligence, 
   perseverance or lack of it, laziness, kindness, cruelty, 
   malice, selfishness, integrity, moral degeneracy, jealousy, 
   envy, ignorance, shyness, boldness, shallowness, seriousness 
   reveal themselves through actions over time.  We show what we 
   are by our actions.  To get an accurate knowledge of just what 
   kind of person someone is one needs to have a close association 
   with him over a period of time as in a marriage or work 

   A person can do a lot of fancy, high-toned, convincing talking 
   but if the talk is in conflict with conduct and action, you 
   believe the conduct. 

   In connection with all this a proverb comes to mind:

   You must judge a maiden at the kneading trough, and not at the 

   She may sing and dance very well.  But there are things 
   that are more important than singing and dancing.  Like 
   integrity and character. 

   Feb 2010

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