There are two old sayings that are regularly misused. One is “You can’t judge a book by its cover” and the other, which I prefer, is “All that glitters is not gold”. Now there is definitely some wisdom in these sayings. I have many books, and some of the best have average looking covers. I also know that if you paint a piece of junk beautifully, you still got a piece of junk. But where we have to be careful with these kinds of sayings is when we try to apply them universally. (In fact, almost all universal thinking most be extremely scrutinized.) Some things can in fact can be judged by their covers, and gold does in fact glitter.
Often times we use these sayings in the negative. Saying that not everything that looks good is good, is not the same as saying everything that looks good is not good. Many things look good, and are good. I have a beautifully bound copy of ”A Christmas Carol”, you absolutely can judge that book by its cover, but I have also seen beautifully bound copies of the “Koran”, which is a terrible book. Another example is cars, I’ve seen terribly painted cars with awesome engines, and vice versa.
Now to get to what really matters, people. Often times these sayings, especially the cover one, is used for people. The problem with using these sayings for people is that unlike books, people can, and do, have control over their “covers”, and those “covers” are often correlated with what’s on the inside. Man has several methods of changing their “covers”, clothes being one of the most obvious. Clothing is relatively inexpensive. Almost every person in America can have an abundance of properly fitting clothes in any style they want. This idea that a guy dressed in rags is just some great guy down on his luck is an outdated falsehood. The fact is that anybody can dress almost any way they want in America, even bums. Anybody can have clothes that fit and are clean. So with that being the case, clothing then becomes very controllable by the wearer. So now the cover can in fact be a very good indication of the contents, and our saying has lost much of it’s application. In fact, as we all know, many people purposefully dress in certain ways to signal to others their intentions or beliefs. One can judge fairly accurately that a man with a sports team shirt, both enjoys that sport, and supports that team.
There are additional “covers” that people can have besides clothes (cars, makeup, tattoos, hair color, body size, speech patterns, etc). So often times when looking at a variety of covers, it becomes fairly easy to accurately judge someone by their covers. Below is a clear example.
It is obvious that we can judge this person to be a devout Muslim. Here’s another one.
If you judged that he’s not voting for Trump, you are probably right.
One of a person’s “covers” that they have control over is body weight. Every able bodied person can control their weight. If you see a man or a woman that is very fit, it does not automatically mean that they are disciplined, but it doesn’t mean that they are not. If someone sees a man or a woman who is very obese, it most certainly is an indication that that person isn’t disciplined.
With all this being said, of course you can still have exceptions, you can always have exceptions. You can have a guy dressed in a really nice suit who is a total jerk. But what we must always remember is that finding an exception does not mean that you can throw out every form of the rule (the rule being judging by the cover). This is actually an extremely important point. Let’s say we find a guy who is wielding a knife in a dark alley, and as we approach he says, “Hey don’t worry, we are just shooting a scene from a new horror movie”, and then all the crew walks out and they turn on a bunch of lights. Would you tell your friends, “hey, if you ever see a guy with a knife in a dark alley you shouldn’t judge him, he may be an actor.”
Exceptions should be called exactly what they are, exceptions. We should never use exceptions as excuses to throw out a rule. If we have no other knowledge of an individual, we should absolutely judge by appearance.