Reading Others: Are You Building Up or Tearing Down? - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)
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November 17, 2017

Reading Others: Are You Building Up or Tearing Down?

Don’t judge a book by its cover. We have all heard the metaphor, but applying it is in a completely different library. It is easy to judge people right off the bat. It is easy to single out others’ imperfections. It is easy to tear people down, at least in our private thoughts and attitudes if not in words and actions. All of us are at risk for giving in to this ugly urge.

A college community is no different. In this social whirlwind, new and veteran students can succumb to  judging others in an unkind, ungodly way.

For freshmen, everyone and everything is new. They were the coolest thing in high school, and obviously it hasn’t worn off.

Sophomores watch as the freshmen take their place, and they simply become “the sophomores,” an in-between phase, not a freshman but not an upperclassman. Still, they feel like they know something, practically everything.

Then there are the juniors who feel on top as they enter the upperclassman circle, on the cusp of being really meaningful.

Finally, we have seniors, who are on the highest rung of the college social ladder, feeling ready to tackle the world with their three years of acquired knowledge and experience.

True, not everyone fits the above categories, but many will find themselves slipping into these stereotypes if they are not careful. Without continual introspection, pride can sneak in like a thief in the night.

Oftentimes, we judge people based on physical appearance or simply from first impressions. It doesn’t take much effort to write off a person without really getting to know them as an individual. Placing ourselves on a pedestal of perfection, we pen thoughts of criticism and critique. We tear each other down to lift ourselves up, or we are simply selfish enough to believe that we are better than others, that they are not worthy of our time. Before you know it, this concept of arrogance has written itself into your mind.

This, however, is not the example of Christ. Loving sinners, Jesus ate with, healed, taught and died for them. In John 13:34, he says, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” And Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, writes, “Encourage one another and build each other up.”

The first step of loving and encouraging others is changing your mind. Instead of assuming the worst about someone and jumping to conclusions, take the time to get to actually know them. By building relationships, by holding serious conversations with others, by discovering who they really are, you will often find that their story has an intriguing premise, an intriguing plot or a surprise ending.

College is the perfect time to begin this training of your mind. People, whom you have never met, soon live on your floor or in your room. When living with someone, you witness their good and bad days. Yes, everyone has characteristics that need some editing, but that is not our job. Dig down deep and find the good in each person you are around. You’ll find that the student who seemed stuck-up is actually a protective friend, who cares for the anxious of heart. The person who seemed antisocial and unfriendly is actually a sweet, quiet person, happy to talk when conversation is initiated. The individual that seemed like a know-it-all is actually very insecure and just trying to fit in.

When you live with others, you realize that they are beautifully created by God with unique gifts and talents. Instead of reading them as just another student, you come to understand them not as clichés but as unique individuals with their own personalities, stories and callings.

So, as each semester opens up, be aware. Every day, check your heart and mind. Rather than the banner of pride, put on the robe of humility. Invest in other people, search for the good, love them like Christ and build them up.

We are all created in God’s image, and He is the only judge of His creation. Assuming the worst only tears others down, but searching for the good builds them up. This is what changes not only a relationship, but a family, a college, a country and the world.

-Olivia Forton ‘19