People Aren’t Always Who They Appear To Be

Sometimes people surprise us. Sometimes they outright shock us. Sometimes they turn out to not be at all who we thought they were. And sometimes the clues were right in front of our noses the entire time. Maybe we don’t want to see them for who they are, or maybe the truth seems impossible. Maybe we just want to think the best of those we think we know.

We often hear of “things” people do on the news, and can’t believe they could do such things. We wonder how they could sleep at night. We wonder if they just thought they wouldn’t get caught. We feel sorry for their families. We’re glad we don’t know them. What happens when it turns out to be someone you know?

There are people we consider to be kind and generous individuals. Sometimes they have problems that we are not aware of. They can even be overtaken by addictions we didn’t know about. It might be alcohol, drugs, sex, or gambling. They hurt people in the process of supplying their own needs. They might not mean to hurt people, but everyone within their path is affected in some way. We are disappointed in them and ache for their families.

This brings me to the point of wondering how well we really know others. We can be friends with people for years and not know them on an intimate level. You only get to know people as well as they allow you unless you have a gift of seeing things beneath the surface. And even these types of difficulties get past the radar. You can work with someone for many years and still have no idea what they do when they leave the workplace each evening. You can go to church with someone and work charitable events with them and not have any idea what kind of a person they are inside. You assume because they go to church and give to charity that they are good inside…and maybe they are but just got caught up in something bigger than themselves.

How well does the average person really know himself? Maybe he knows what he likes or dislikes. Does he really know what motivates him to make the decisions he does in life? Is it his genetic makeup? Is it his belief system? Is it his personality? Is it his environment? Is it his family? What propels him to move forward in life? Does he reflect on his choices to help him know himself and push him to become a better person?

The next time you are shocked at someone’s action or reactions, think about how well you really know that person. Do you know them well enough to predict their movements? Are they really who you thought they were or did you only know the mask they were wearing? Could you see something wasn’t quite right? Were you close enough to offer assistance? Are you who everyone thinks you are? Finally, do you even know who you are?

73 thoughts on “People Aren’t Always Who They Appear To Be

  1. This is true, Suzicate. I mean, think of how much more complicated it is even now, with the anonymity (and yet the intimacy) of the Internet? You can honestly think you know someone you’ve never even met.

    ps: I’m not sure who I am, either. 🙂

    • Ah yes, on the internet I suppose one could portray themselves to be anyone they wanted. However, after a while you begin to be able to know ones heart through their writing…I don’t think one can’t fake that on a constant basis.

    • I can’t begin to tell the shock in finding out truth…and then I realize I have no right to feel that way when I haven’t taken the time to know certain people better.

  2. Questions I have pondered many times lately. Especially in view of how some “church” members are treating another member’s divorce. Shocking!

    Sometimes, I don’t know who I am. It makes me realize… I’ve changed. It’s fun to get to know me again.

  3. A lovely post with some interesting thoughts. I’ve been having similar conversations with friends recently. It is funny how we all profess to know each other so well and yet barely scratch the surface of who they are.

  4. Reminds me of that Mel Gibson movie What Women Want, where he can hear everyone’s inner voices. Personally, I take people at face value. I know that they are only showing certain sides of themselves to the outside world. Everyone has an inner voice, secrets, and things in their personalities that they might not even want to admit to themselves. I’m okay with that because relationships would be a bummer if I went around suspect of everyone all the time. Sometimes accepting people at face value can cause shocking moments…but I guess I expect a good shock every now and again.

    Do I know myself? I think so, but I do still surprise myself sometimes!

    • I generally accept people at face value myself, and even then have been shocked. I have encountered people that I found to be different than I percieved them to be, but when it happens on a collosial scale it is an earth shaker.

  5. Pingback: People Aren’t Always Who They Appear To Be (via The Water Witch’s Daughter) « Change is Never Ending

  6. I do know who I am, but for years I did not.

    No one else knows who I am . . . not because I’m wearing a mask, but because they are looking at me through the lens of their own experiences.

    We have as many reputations as we have acquaintances, and none is accurate.

    We could spend our entire lives trying to explain exactly who we are to someone else, and they still would be unable to see us as we are . . . because they are standing at a different vantage point.

    Once I realized that no one else could really understand me, I stopped worrying about my reputation with others and focused on my reputation with “the man in the mirror.”

    And that’s when I began to know who I am.

    That’s the key I think. When we stop worrying about who they are . . . or about who they think we are . . . we finally see who we are.

    When we know WHO we are . . . we know HOW to live. Peace.

    • You are so right, we do look at others through our own lens of experience. It’s all a matter of perception. “When we know WHO we are . . . we know HOW to live” – Absolutely!

    • Nr Hatch I totally relate to your comment. I am about to send my son off to college and encouraging him to connect with his yet unmet roommate. How much he reveals of himself isvery personal to him. He does not do social media so email is the main communication. How do we draw the line between rude and principle? I.e I don’t want to respond because I don’t do Facebook, versus I dont do Facebook because I value close personal relationships. As Suzicate says, do we realky know ourselves or our loved ones?

  7. Thank you for a post that really makes a person think and consider a weighty question. Who are we? Who are they?

    I think what Nancy said is true, that people look through the lens of their own experiences. There is more diversity in people than we imagine. We expect people to act and react similarly to the way we ourselves act and react, but culturally, experientially, and in other respects, we come from different backgrounds. Yet, we all, pretty much, hold one another to a high standard, perhaps higher than any of us can meet. God holds everyone to the same standard, which none of us has met, and provided a way to forgive us. Blessings to you, Suzi.

    • There is so much that we can’t begin to understand about other people’s choices…and even when they are shocking, it still doesn’t give me the right to judge, though I’d be lying if I said I never have, human nature I guess. Blessings to you, Carol.

  8. This is a complicated issue. I have some friends whom I know very little about other than the fact that I enjoy their company and sometimes they feels like enough.

    What I do know is that we can’t live our lives always questioning other people’s motives or wondering what they are doing behind closed doors. I try to take people as I find them.

    A great topic for conversation..

    • It is complicated. And I say I take them as they are, however if I truly did I would never be shocked because I would not have any expectations. I think whether we admit it or not, we usually hold those closest to us to the same set of standards as ourselves.

  9. At the present time the only things that are “shocking” me are things people say or their reaction to something. Then I stop and examine what is going on in their lives (and only what I know of) and most of the time I can understand the “bad” behavior. There is no one in my life right now that is doing anything (I am aware of) that is truly shocking.

    One time I knew someone — not very well — that commited a heinous crime. To this day I still shake my head because I cannot comprehend doing something so violent. And I thought this person was very peaceful. You never know.

    As Laura Best states, this is a complicated issue. Because there are so many different types of relationships.

    • You hit the nail on the head…crime…it shocks us, and still how well did we really know them? Apparently, we didn’t. And what or who gives us the right to judge? Nothing, though I would not have been shocked had I not been judging according to my own standards of morals.

      • Well, in some cases I believe we are bound by the rights of the others to judge. The victim, needs someone to stand up since they no longer can. In some instances we have to stop being “politically correct” and judge people so that people will know it is not right. AND it will not be tolerated. But . . . . I don’t think that will happen anytime soon so . . . . . . we will live in a “tolerant” world full of murder, mayhem, and crime.

  10. My mother gave me some very interesting advice about really KNOWING someone.

    She said, “Don’t notice how someone treats you, but rather notice how someone treats others.”

    And she was right.

    FAB post, Suzi! Hope you had a super Monday!


  11. The mention of the Mel Gibson movie, along with a couple of books I’ve read lately, makes me realize what a great gift it is that we DON’t know what other people are thinking, however much we might think we want to. I really think it’s better that way.

  12. I think I know myself. Then I get surprised. And that’s nice, most of the time. Sometimes not so much.

    I certainly know my dog. She is the one who always wants a treat when we walk through the door. Nice to be so utterly dependable.

  13. In light of Ron’s comment, I’ve heard it said to watch how someone treats their mother…that they will never treat another with more respect than seen in that relationship.

  14. Excellent words … I appreciate that you can see all sides of this situation. This happened to me a few years ago and I am still hurt inside. Finding out the truths about someone I thought I knew so well, someone I loved, made me feel anger and then I internalized it … I felt so stupid. How could I not see it? How did I not know? How could they hide all that from me? I talked to them for hours every single day for years, we traveled together.

    It has a lot to do with broken trusts. When you care about someone, you must trust them for the relationship to have any substance. It also has a lot to do with blindness … you look at them with care and love and have eyes wide open to see the best …. and like many of your commenters have stated … you can only see and know what the person is willing to show you. The hidden things remain hidden until something happens that shows the truth … and, sometimes those truths are pretty bad. Sometimes they are understandable … big, strange situations can make us do things that we normally would not. I agree with you … people have to know themselves to share themselves honestly.

    I tend to be overly open … I want people to see me as I am. I think I know who I am (although many things have shaken me lately) and I find it impossible to pretend anything … from one of your past post, everything shows on my face.

    Your words here mean a lot to me, thanks.

    • Thank you for telling me these wordds meant something to you. I think you’re right that people need to know themselves in order to share honestly. Most people really don’t take the time to know themselves on an intimate level. They might tell you their likes and dislikes but have no idea why they feel that way.

  15. Pingback: Know Thyself ~ The Oracle At Delphi « Spirit Lights The Way

  16. i have once read somewhere that we know a person only that much as much he/she allows us to know. i have tested it again and again and now i believe it quite substantially.

  17. I recently learned something about a friend that I had known for over twenty years. Her behavior surprised me, but in retrospect when I analyzed her collective actions, the clues were right there. I just chose to selectively ignore her less than flattering traits.

  18. This is such a deep post! I think about having just found out that a couple who used to attend my church divorced when they moved to Indonisa. Never would have though Ken could have cheated on his wife and not cared, but like you said, who really knows anyone?

    I choose to keep certain things private because I don’t want to burden my friends with certain troubles, or they’re really nobody’s business. It’s a fine line between being too open and too private though, I think. I’ve noticed that a lot at work. Some people will just volunteer way too much info and others you have to practically Taser before they’ll react or share anything.

    Interesting post. Thanks for sharing!

  19. I stumbled upon your blog quite by accident, but this post reminds me of my own. As I have gotten older, maybe not so much wiser, I often wonder about my friends and co-workers.

  20. Great post suzicate thanks for sharing;
    In our society people are always putting on a front, they get lost in our “Society” and forget who they really are, but what’s in the dark always come to light, So let’s keep it real People!

  21. Love this post! I’ve found that platforms such as Facebook really help to get to see people in another light. This has been good and bad for some of my friendships. I also have a couple of friends that use FB to just watch and listen, which I find very odd, but maybe not so odd. This is a great topic.

    • Yes, some do use it to just watch others which is weird, and then some use it as an attention getter with everything being high drama and then low despair. I find most use it to connect with friends and family and sometimes a social connection to business. Still, no matter how much we think we know people there are those things that happen which completely shock us….perhaps I shouldn’t have expectations of others, but I can’t help but expect others to be kind to one another.

  22. I appreciate your take on this subject Suzicate, and if I read you correctly, then you are coming from a place of compassion, humility, and deep knowing. We each of us have a backstory, and yet we tend to judge others by current or social appearances, as if such superficialities were sufficient for us to know the whole person. So thank you, for this eloquent and insightful article. With gratitude and respect, Hariod.

    • Yes, we are quick to judge when someone does something we disapprove though we’d be upset if it happened to us. I found myself in this position of judgment and realized I had no right to judge this person’s actions.I did not know the backstory, and even if I did it still was not my place or right. i realize it’s a human condition, but it doesn’t make it right. And yes, I do find myself making hasty assumptions and opinions, but I do hope that acknowledging this will help me grow and have compassion instead of turning away in disgust or anger.

  23. So Suzicate, do you have any credentials like philosophical degrees or positions that qualify you as a credible source for information? I am currently writing a research paper based of off many stories by Flannery O’Connor, and I have come to the conclusion that the best topic or thesis of my essay is somewhat along the lines that every person, despite their past or present appearance and social status, is a little bit different or unexpectedly different than they appear to be. This was quite a common consensus in all of the stories, so I came upon this article while in my research phase. I just wanted to know if I could use this, so if you could please help me by telling me any of your credentials that would be great.

  24. Reblogged this on Parental Alienation and commented:
    The next time you are shocked at someone’s action or reactions, think about how well you really know that person. Do you know them well enough to predict their movements? Are they really who you thought they were or did you only know the mask they were wearing? Could you see something wasn’t quite right? Were you close enough to offer assistance? Are you who everyone thinks you are? Finally, do you even know who you are?

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