I saw a middle-aged man yesterday wearing a pink shirt that didn't quite cover his belly, a pair of yellow shorts, work boots without laces and no socks. I turned to comment on his appearance to my wife, but then I stopped myself.
We have no right or reason to think less of this person because of his physical appearance.
We have no right or reason to speak poorly of this person because of his physical appearance.
A person should be able to wear whatever he or she wants without ever having to suffer a negative word about it from anyone, to their face or behind their back.
As an elementary school teacher, I have a policy of never commenting on a student's physical appearance, including complimenting a student on the way he or she looks. Instead of telling a student how much I like his haircut or her new dress, I restrict my comments to the things that truly matter: behavior, effort, determination, integrity, academic achievement, sportsmanship.
I have managed to adhere to this rule for a long time. It has been years since I made a comment of any kind about the way a student looks.
I'd like to think that I could apply a similar rule in the rest of my life.
While I have no reason to avoid complimenting adults on their physical appearance, I'd like to think that I could refrain from negative comments of any kind at all times.
I know this is unrealistic. Even if I am capable of ignoring a person's odd combination of clothing (and I usually can), there are so many other aspects of a person's physical appearance that might illicit a negative comment:
Unusual haircuts. Numerous tattoos. Excessive plastic surgery. Gaudy jewelry. Ostentatious displays of designer labels. Bizarre piercings. Overdone makeup. Stupid little alligators embroidered over the right breast of a shirt.
The list is endless.
Still, I've decided that I'm going to try. This is my goal.
It may seem ridiculous, supercilious, unnecessary or even stupid, but I also think it's the right thing to do, and the right thing trumps the ridiculous, supercilious, unnecessary and stupid every time.
I certainly don't expect to be able to stop thinking these ugly thoughts about the physical appearance of others, but I will try my best to this as well, and I will at least admonish myself every time I catch myself doing so.
But we are all capable of keeping our mouths shut when one of those ugly thoughts enters our minds, as I managed to do yesterday.
So this is my goal. When one of those ugly thoughts about a person's physical appearance enters my mind, I will keep my mouth shut.
It won't be easy, but as I've said before, the easy thing and the right thing are rarely the same thing, and keeping our mouths shut is the right thing to do.
We have no right to decide what looks right and what looks wrong.
We have no right to impose our standards of style upon others.
We have no right to speak poorly of someone because of the way they choose to present themselves.
If anything, we should admire those who dare to dress differently. We should celebrate their rejection of conformity. We should aspire to the level of self confidence and courage required to stand out from the rest. We should revel in their independent spirit.
Wouldn't the world be a better place if a men in undersized pink shirts, yellow shorts and laceless work boots could make their way through this world without someone like me whispering cruelties behind their back?
I think so.