Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Look Alike

Have you ever seen someone who you thought was going to be a crabby person, but they turned out to be nice? What made you judge them to be a grump? Perhaps it was the way they stood, or the way they looked at you. Maybe it was a down-turned mouth or furrowed brow that made you think badly of them.

We tend to judge people by their expressions and presence, before we actually get to know them. Sometimes those assumptions are correct, sometimes they are very wrong.

In a recent study, a group of 70 people who do not own dogs, were asked to match 41 dog owners to the breed of dog they owned. They were shown pictures of the owners and then given a choice of Labrador, poodle or Staffordshire bull terrier to match with the owner. The panel was correct over half of the time. Statistically, with just a random guess, they should have been correct only a third of the time.

One of the psychologists was quoted as saying, "This suggests that certain breeds of dogs are associated with particular kinds of people. Those who don't own dogs used stereotypes to match the dogs to their owners. These stereotypes persisted into judgments of the dog owners' personalities: non-dog owners considered the owners of each breed to share certain personality traits, such as level of conscientiousness and emotional stability."

So I guess it turns out you may actually look like or act like your dog! For me, that would mean I am big, furry, and very goofy. (No comments please!) What does that say about your personality?

This is not only true of pets. It seems there is also some scientific validity to the idea that as couples age together, they begin to resemble one another. In a 2006 study, test participants rated men and women, who were actual couples, as looking alike and having similar personalities. The longer the couples had been together, the greater the perceived similarities. The researchers speculate that the sharing of experiences might affect how couples look.

Basically, I gather from this research that we are influenced both emotionally and physically by those with whom we come into contact. Also, the more we are around them, the more we become like them. Just as these studies suggest, it does not matter whether those things are animals or humans. We become like them, and they become like us.

So, of course, the big question is what do you look like? How do people perceive you? For the Christian, our goal should be to be as much like Jesus as possible. The Apostle Paul, wrote in Galatians 6, "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus". We as Christians should strive to bear the marks of Christ in our own lives.

However, most of us do a pretty terrible job of this. We wind up being imitators of Jesus. Paul also wrote, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." Imitating Christ’s behavior is a great start, but in order to fulfill what God intends for us, we must become so much like Jesus, that people see more of Him in us than they do of us. This is what 1 Corinthians 4:11 means: that we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. We have to actually give up so much of ourselves that we are unrecognizable. We are, in a sense, "dead". When we give our old selves up and let Christ come into our lives, He is the one who others recognize, not us.

How do we do this? Just as people don’t automatically look like their dogs or spouses over time, we cannot just be associated with Christ without a relationship. We must spend time with Him, learn about Him, allow Him to shape us and teach us before we will become like Him. Reading and studying God’s Word, talking with Him on a regular basis and listening and watching for His guidance in our lives, is how we accomplish the goal of allowing Christ to live through us.

Let Jesus Christ shine – be the one others see when they encounter you. Give Him your all!

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)

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