THE OTHER SIDE
[continued from yesterday]
...From this it is safe to make a general conclusion, and it is this: Most men are better than the estimate we form of them before we know them. Our first judgments, founded on hearsay, or on some wholly alien evidence, must necessarily be exaggerated; it is deprived of the means of filling in the lights and the shades which personal contact alone can provide.
If we hear of another's talents, we magnify the poor victim in our minds till he becomes a perfect monster; if we are told of his strength of will, we imagine some inhuman cyclops; if we have proof of his fascinating personality, we picture some siren of the sea that will lure us, unless we are careful, to our destruction.
Then comes the discovery, and with it often the reaction to the opposite extreme.
Monster as the creature of our imagination was, it was nevertheless an idol; we meet the man in real life and find him only human. So that, very often, our second judgments are as unsound as our first. Our monster of intellect falls so short of our anticipation that we declare him to be overrated, forgetting that it is ourselves alone who have done him this injustice.
Our strong man never seems to put forth his strength; we wonder whether he real1y has any. And so with all the rest of the idols which our fancy has set up.
But if this is true of every type of man it is particularly true of those who earn that most unenviable of reputations, the reputation for being good. Poor creatures! What a time such people have! A man is talked about as being holy; he has had the misfortune to utter some spiritual remark, he has been seen to do or not to do something which has been taken as proving his mortified spirit, he has been found somewhere on his knees - perhaps asleep - and the word has gone round that he is a man of prayer.
A stranger hears of him and is curious. He wonders whether after all he is going to come across a live saint; whether there wi11 be a halo round his head, whether his hands will have wounds in them, whether his haggard face will bear the marks of long fasting, whether at the very least his eyes will not be for ever closed, or else for ever turned upwards so that the white alone will appear.
Then comes the meeting....
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918