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LJ Idol Season 8: Week 9

"Never judge a book by its cover". One of those things you are forever being told as a small child, presumably in a misguided attempt to dispel prejudices and bigotry amongst those too young even to have prejudices and bigotry. (Actually, if memory serves me right, my parents did me the great courtesy of not harping endlessly on this theme, given all the prejudices they turned out to have. Sexism? Check ("women make useless engineers/only stupid girls do engineering because they're in it to find a husband". Thanks Dad). Racism? Check (my mother only pretended to be racist so as not to incur my father's wrath, but the ranting he'd do any time apartheid or the like was mentioned on the news was ... not a happy-making sight). Homophobia? Check (all hell broke loose when I came out as bisexual: physical abuse from my father, emotional abuse from both of them, and that's not mentioning the thing that triggers me too much to write it down).

Teachers, however, were always keen to cite that cliché. But surely there's something a bit wrong with that. Isn't it, basically, telling us not to trust our own instincts? Instincts which may well be honed to detect when we're about to get into a sticky or harmful situation. Instincts whose primary purpose is to protect us.

In the past I have been, I admit, maybe far too quick to make snap decisions about people on first meeting. And then I felt ashamed. Like I hadn't given them a fair roll of the dice; like I had, indeed, judged the book by its cover. So I gave them a second chance. And a third. And eventually I discovered that, in fact, my first instincts weren't wrong; if anything, they weren't protecting me enough.

Take, for instance, the (now defrocked, I hope) priest. Talk about the Prince of Darkness; the first time I met him, I felt like I was talking to the Devil. Other people's accounts of him did nothing much to reassure me. But then I started to think that I must have misjudged him, that there must have been some good in him for him ever to have got through a Selection Conference, seminary, and ordination, and that I just hadn't tried hard enough to find it. So I tried to be friendly and sympathetic to him; I spent long hours listening to his tales of tortured angst. And of course he turned on me in the end; he threatened to report me to the Bishop; I suppose in his addled state, and being used to this being the threat that was always being held over his own head, he thought this was The Thing You Had to Do. We lost contact after that; the last time I saw him was in a bar, when he spiked my drinks and left me for dead on the floor, refusing to do anything to help. I've heard tell, occasionally, of some of the terrible things he resorted to after that (and quite frankly I'd believe anything of him now!) but fortunately all has been quiet on the Western Front for a while now.

And that's not even to begin to get into how most of my relationships have started out with my having an intense feeling of dislike towards the person concerned, and then feeling that redemption must be possible. Trust me, none of them have turned out well. Until I actually learn that, against the grain and received wisdom though it be, I must judge a book by its cover, I'm best off steering well clear of relationships. And maybe even friendships.

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I try to steer clear of snap decisions, but sometimes your gut instincts are entirely correct!

Wow ... hard way to learn things. :(

There's a wonderful book called The Gift of Fear that you might enjoy - it talks a lot about trusting your instincts!

Since most of my new acquaintances are at work, I have adopted the have to prove I can trust you attitude over the years. The most poisonous snake is wrapped in the prettiest of colors. And sometimes the most eloquent have the razor sharp tongues.

Still want to be a hermit.

Well written.

A very sad outlook. I'm sorry you feel the need to feel this way. That is very sad.

Stick with your instincts! I've found mine rarely steer me wrong.

I think things are not always what they that there is usually more than one way to look at things. Maybe cliches are only guides, not gospels.

I try hard not to judge a book by it's cover. Thankfully, my family is a group of oddballs, so except for racism (which was prevalent in my family sadly), my family is very open minded. I grew up around all kinds of different people and learned to be more accepting.

:( I'm sorry you've had such terrible experiences.

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