“I can always tell the state of someone’s soul by examining the medicine cabinet. And it’s always easy to take a peek when I visit a house. A well-kept medicine cabinet is a well-kept person–such a one can be trusted.”
“I can always tell the state of someone’s soul by seeing how well that person cares for the family pet. Ten minutes a day is the absolute minimum that must be spent on grooming the animal. If that is not done, there is something very wrong with the person’s soul and that person is not worthy of my trust.”
“Let me look at a person’s desk or work space and I can tell you whether that person is emotionally and mentally healthy or not. The order in which that space is kept is a clear indicator of that person’s mental health and trustworthiness.”
Yes, all those statements above are actual quotes. In each case, they were given as an explanation of how they decided whether to trust another person or not. Medicine cabinets, pet care, work spaces—each an external sign that, according to these people, were sure indicators of inward health and wholeness and trustworthiness.
In each case, the individual was looking for an external indicator that would signal an internal state. Just about everyone I know has these indicators, although not everyone is bold enough to express them. People who reorganize homes for a living are sure they can see into a person’s heart by they state of order or disorder of their living spaces. People who love gardening can state positively that the state of one’s lawn or garden tells everything that needs to be said about the inhabitants of a residence. Fitness experts confidently assert that an unfit body clearly means that the person living in that unfit body has major character deficiencies. Fashion experts . . . well, you get the idea here. People use their areas of expertise as lenses to make decisions about the interior lives of those they see.
Worse, people who do manage to do all those things are judged as worthy of being trusted. And the very opposite may be true—for such people may have mastered the art of looking perfect on the outside, but may have neglected any real interior character formation. And character ultimately trumps all these outward signs. In the end, it is all about character, or soul health. The rest falls by the wayside.
I suggest to you that there is a far more reliable way to discern a person’s true character than by relying on some arbitrarily determined outward characteristic. It is this: Does the person hold to a single standard or a double standard? In other words, will that person (or will you) really treat others in the way he or she would like to be treated, or does the person (or you) make all excuses for his or her own behavior and decisions and permit no excuses for someone else’s behavior and decisions? The answers here are a lot more reliable in the long run than ones learned by snooping through medicine cabinets and sniffing pets.