Bill Tinsley: Image and first impressions are often deceiving
As the presidential race heats up, candidates are vying for the best image and a positive first impression. But, historically, image and impressions are often deceiving.
Abraham Lincoln was called an “ape.” His voice had a Midwestern twang. He only had one year of formal education. Edwin Stanton first met him in Cincinnati in 1855. Lincoln had been invited to assist Stanton in an important civil case. Stanton described him as a “tall, rawly boned, ungainly backwoodsman, with coarse, ill-fitting clothing, his trousers hardly reaching his ankles, holding in his hands a blue cotton umbrella with a ball on the end.”
After Lincoln introduced himself and suggested, “Let’s go up in a gang,” Stanton decided to have nothing to do with him. He even refused to invite Lincoln to dine at his table.
Lincoln was elected president in 1860 with less than 40% of the popular vote. When he delivered the Gettysburg Address, few listened. The Chicago Times panned the speech stating, “The cheeks of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances.”
Abraham Lincoln is now regarded as perhaps our greatest president. Every year millions visit his memorial that overlooks the mall in Washington, D.C. And the speech that the Chicago Times called “silly and flat” is memorized by most students of American history. Edwin Stanton, who later served as his secretary of war, choked through tears when Lincoln drew his final breath and said, “Now he belongs to the ages.”
By contrast, in an open and free election on March 29, 1936, Adolf Hitler received 98.8% of the German popular vote. His spellbinding oratory and promises mesmerized an entire generation. He was proclaimed the savior of Germany. At his peak, more than a million gathered in Nuremberg each year to praise and adore him.
But beneath those appearances lurked a sinister ego-maniac who would exterminate approximately 20 million people including Jews, the mentally ill, the infirm and the elderly. Today, Hitler’s name is synonymous with evil. References to him have been virtually erased in Germany, except for the Document Center in Nuremberg, preserved as a reminder of the nation’s darkest days.
Describing Christ 800 years before He was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:2-4).
Public images and first impressions are often deceiving. What truly matters, for each of us as well as our leaders, is that which is within. The Bible says, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experience from a faith perspective. Visit www.tinsleycenter.com. Email email@example.com.