The Time to Make Up Your Mind About People is Never

Recently I watched The Philadelphia Story for the first time because Gossip Girl has been drawing from it this season. (For a show called Gossip Girl the writing is amazingly pretentious about its overarching themes–the episode to episode writing is not usually so good, though) There are a lot of older classic movies I’ve never seen, don’t judge me.

There were many things I really liked about it, namely Jimmy Stewart (whom I adore) and Katherine Hepburn and the witty dialogue that made me laugh quite a bit. I didn’t particularly like all of the implications of the film for my show, and in my opinion it’s horrendously sexist (but I do recognize it is from a different time), but I loved this line…”the time to make up your mind about people is never.”

Last year was a really hard year for me in terms of relationships. I was let down in many different relationships–I discovered that some friendships I thought were real were mere stepping stones for others and I felt written off by still others. Feeling cast aside and discarded, judged and labeled by people you’ve loved and laughed with is really one of the worst feelings in the world, I think. Friendship can be so hard and when that trust is broken, when what lies beneath what you thought you’ve built is revealed, its very hard not to be finished, to not let the lens of my own perspective become the definition.

Renay, someone who unknowingly is constantly teaching me, wrote the most gorgeous thing at the end of the year that so perfectly summed up the struggle I had last year. A struggle I suspect will continue throughout my life.

There is no such thing as universal popularity. Someone will always dislike you for ridiculous, ridiculous things, and there’s no way to change their mind or change their story of you. You will have one story to those people, and most of them aren’t naturally re-readers, so therefore they will never open the book of you again. It cannot be your job to force them to read the book of you again at a different time, or age, or maturity level. All you can do is set it on their shelf and let it be. Maybe they’ll re-read it and maybe they won’t, but instead of obsessing about the people that let the book of you collect dust, go out and share a copy with people inclined to pick it up and cherish it and dog ear pages and give copies to their friends, people who will open it late at night or early in the morning, hoping for the feeling of warmth that comes with all friendships that are worth keeping.

The thing I always wonder about myself, though, is do I make up my mind too early? And if I’ve made up my mind about someone than I guess have.

I’ve been reading What Good is God? by Philip Yancey (and I’m so behind–sorry Faith and Fiction friends!) As always, I love his gentle voice and the way he manages to invite readers in for questioning while also encouraging us. In a chapter about some time he spent with former sex workers, he talks about the mystery of a person. Again, this is such a good reminder for me. I find it hard to constantly live in the tension of staying open minded to people and making decisions drawn on past experience. When talking about nested dolls he writes, “It occurred to me later that each one of us, like the nested dolls, contains multiple selves, making us a mysterious combination of good and evil, wisdom and folly, reason and instinct.” We are not one of us just any one thing no matter how much our minds demand categorizations be made. We all have our own degree of mystery, capable of great love, great kindness, great cruelty.

I can think of times when I’ve formed my judgment about someone, only to later be moved when I see them differently…for the better or worse. Sometimes I fear our society makes up its mind too quickly. We judge by political affiliation, we judge by religious association, by gender, race, sexual orientation, class, blog platform, and more. We shove people into our own understanding of who they should be by these things, discounting the mysterious fullness of their personhood. The time to make up your mind about people is….never.