There was once an experiment where professional hairstylists gave great haircuts to some homeless people off the street. The result was a shock to both the individuals and the onlookers. It’s amazing how someone’s appearance affects how we think of the person. We are warned not to judge a book by its cover, but so many times that’s exactly what we do.

I think the same principle applies spiritually. Sometimes we look at someone and he or she seems like a terrible person. But perhaps that’s not the real person. Maybe with some love and encouragement that person could be transformed into someone we would hardly recognize.

Often, when we see people, we judge by what we see on the surface. But there is so much more to any individual beyond what we superficially encounter. Sometimes we are even blind to their good spots. In Song of Songs (also known as Song of Solomon), the woman — who represents the people of Israel — said the following: “Do not stare at me because I am dark...” In other words, she was saying “don’t focus on my present appearance... that is not the true me.”

The Jewish sages explain that the woman was expressing the idea that just as a person may get a stain on a garment, sometimes a person gets a stain on their soul. She might be dark like the tents of Kedar” but she can yet be “like the tent curtains of Solomon.” The woman was pleading with the man — who symbolizes God — not to judge her as she appeared in the present but as to who she really was and who she would eventually become.

This reminds me of how God promised Abraham that his offspring would be like stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5). One explanation of this promise is that just as stars are but a speck in the sky from our vantage point, in reality, they are bright and luminous. Similarly, the offspring of Abraham might not look like much from a distance at times, but if we take the time to look closely, we can see their greatness as a people.

These teachings remind us about the importance of seeing the people in our lives not merely as they are, but as how they can be. We need to see people for their potential and not their shortcomings. We need to look closely at a person’s strengths and look away from their weaknesses. When we see others for how they really are in God’s eyes, they might begin to see themselves that way, too.

page2image24216 page2image25480 page2image25640 page2image25800 page2image25960 page2image26384 page2image26544 page2image26704 page2image26864 page2image27024 page2image27184 page2image27608 page2image28032 page2image28456 page2image28616 page2image28776 page2image28936 page2image29096 page2image29256 page2image29416 page2image29576 page2image29736 page2image29896 page2image30056 page2image30216 page2image30376 page2image30536 page2image30696 page2image30856 page2image31016 page2image31176 page2image31336 page2image31496 page2image31656 page2image31816 page2image31976 page2image32136 page2image32296 page2image32456 page2image32616 page2image32776 page2image32936 page2image33096 page2image33256 page2image33416

“Dark am I, yet lovely, daughters of Jerusalem,

dark like the tents of Kedar,
like the tent curtains of Solomon.

Do not stare at me because I am dark, because I am darkened by the sun.

My mother’s sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards; my own vineyard I had to neglect.”

Song of Songs 1:5–6