For much of life we hear “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” In many cases the advice is stupid, as it was obviously given at a time when all books were leather-bound and didn’t have imagery from the book on the cover. The odds are if the book has a picture of a swooning woman in low-cut dress and a manful bare chested barbarian in a kilt and broadsword, it’s not a children’s book.
For some reason or another, we spend more of our time as adults avoiding calling a spade a spade. We hesitate to be honest with how we think or feel about things, avoiding the uncomfortable truths in our world. Rather, we prefer white lies and convenient deception to walk around the hole, instead of confronting it and calling it out as the pit it is.
It doesn’t mean that hasty judgements can’t be wrong, or that you won’t discover the book you purchased for a late night bubble bath isn’t immensely disappointing, regardless of cover art.
Recently, I was performing Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audits, and found myself in such a scenario.
I had two Amish farmers to call on that day, the first of which I arrived at promptly at 7:00 AM, only to find out they weren’t expecting me until 1:00PM. The scene was one I had been a part of before, when the farmer hasn’t anything ready and will exasperate me when I return later.
Accepting my future fate and misery, I agreed to return in the afternoon.
After idling away time in nowhere, I visited the next farmer. A kindly old man, who was very earnest and sincere. His face was ruddy and his beard white, reminding you of an Amish Saint Nicholas.
After sitting down to start his audit, I discovered he had no paperwork. Starting with the essentials I asked him for a food safety plan. The man’s eyes dropped and asked me what a food safety plan was.
The poor man, I thought. He was obviously old and confused, his audit could be revisited in a month later anyway, so I left saying he should ask for help from the local food safety guru to get his plan together.
He was very apologetic, and said that he’d do whatever I recommended.
I returned, with trepidation to the first farm again. The farmer and I shook hands and walked to his packing house to perform the audit. Upon arriving, I was surprised to find several binders and folders. Through the course of the audit, I found that this farmer was very astute and had written his food safety plan to the standards, was logging relevant activities and keeping very good records.
It was incredible.
Leaving the area, I called up one of the local coordinators who had set up the audits. Telling him how who did. I explained how the one farmer seemed befuddled, and very confused at the idea of a food safety plan. A sigh addressed me from the other end of the phone.
The actuality was, that the Saintly looking old farmer was not only very wealthy, but known for playing this trick of elderly confusion on unsuspecting auditors. I was not the first to be taken in by his grandfatherly appearance and confused expressions.
In reflection, I was amazed at the deception worked upon me. Not only by the old farmer, but by myself in presuming the first farmer wouldn’t be prepared.
The key here is in seeing that deceptions as untruths cannot withstand scrutiny. They are, like most stories, only as good as the storyteller, and rarely are artful enough to encompass the complexity of reality.
In the case of each farmer, the illusion of them I carried only lasted in ignorance. Without testing the records of the first, I couldn’t have known he was competent and prepared.
Without the truth revealed, I wouldn’t have known the aged charlatan for what he was.
You may very possibly harbor within your heart a belief or assumption that was made, but you do not share, for fear someone will disagree with it. They may argue that your conclusions are invalid, or your belief absurd. You have no idea until it is called out, until it is articulated and exposed to the withering words of the world.
That which is capable of withstanding the evidence, of surviving the glare and stare of others, critiques and evaluation, is true. We avoid this honesty out of convenience, it is simpler to live under the impression of a lie than to be exposed the discomfort of truth. If the switch can be managed, if honestly is given an opportunity, it’s incredible how liberating you may find it.
The moral, if we are to reduce a page an a half to a single sentence, is this: You may call a spade a spade, so long as you’re willing to dig with it.