It just depends on how you look at it

Published 6:49 pm Saturday, December 7, 2002

By By Lloyd Albritton
Have you ever seen one of those billboard signs which are actually three signs in one? OK, here's how it works: as you drive down the highway and approach from, say, the north side of the sign, it reflects one message. As you come abreast of it, you see an entirely different message. Then, as you drive past the sign and look back from the south side, the advertisement changes again. What a simple, but ingenious marketing idea! The same billboard can be sold to three different customers, or to the same customer three times.
When you stop to think about it, just about everything in life is like a three-way billboard. What we see and how we perceive what we see depends entirely upon how we look at it. It's purely a matter of perspective. Take, for example, husbands and wives, children and household pets. Most of us see our own as special and beautiful, though they might be uglier than sin to the rest of the world.
Now, I have always enjoyed watching people in the shopping malls, and on occasion I have conducted my own little informal, extemporaneous surveys to determine an ugly-people/pretty-people ratio that might be applied as sort of a rule-of-thumb working model. Even applying the most liberal standards I could in good conscious devise for such a perverse study, I must report to you that there are a whole lot more ugly people in the world than there are pretty people. Let's say, oh, about ten to one. Do these people know how ugly they are? I don't think so. I think when they look in the mirror, they probably see pretty. Does a man with an ugly wife or ugly children or an ugly dog see what other people see? I don't think so.. From his perspective, they are all beautiful and enviable. And that in itself is a beautiful thing.
Sometimes normal human behavior gets turned around and perspectives gets reversed; people see their own relations as ugly and everybody else's as attractive. This anomaly is, of course, the exception, and can be the cause of serious family dysfunction. Anybody who actually sees his own wife, children and dog as ugly, is probably only looking at his own reflection in his mind's eye, an aberration commonly referred to as "low self-esteem." This person sees himself as ugly, therefore, everything and everybody connected to him is ugly also. People like this don't usually have too many close friends, because even though they may heap praises on people they don't really know, as soon as one of these people comes within his circle of friendship, this type of person changes his perspective and starts ridiculing, criticizing and seeing ugliness. Unfortunately, children and dogs cannot escape such a person so easily as friends can. Wives can, but often don't.
The Bible says that "a prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house" (Matthew 13:57). Many who have achieved greatness in society were thought to be dunces and trouble-makers by their own families and communities. This idea is sometimes expressed as "familiarity breeds contempt." The fact that familiarity can, and often does, breed contempt, does not mean that it should, or that it has to be that way. Those who hold their closest friends and family-those they know best-in contempt, demonstrate not only low self-esteem, but also immaturity. It is indeed a true mark of maturity to be able to recognize, acknowledge and respect the beauty, virtues and potential of those in our inner circle without being totally blind to their imperfections. This applies to families as well as to one's home community at large. Every great person comes from somewhere, usually some small town or community just like ours, and for all we know, we might be rubbing shoulders with one of the future great ones right now and missing an opportunity to be a contributor to that person's future success.
As I take note of the political and religious debate, intolerance and discord which characterizes societies all over the world, it seems ever more apparent to me that what each person sees, whether beauty or ugliness, is determined by that person's unique perspective, that is, where that person is standing in relation to the issue. If we believe that God does not create ugly things, then it would seem to make sense also that when we see something ugly, perhaps it is only that we are looking at it from the wrong angle. As this Christmas season fills the malls with hoards of ugly people, I think I'm going to try to improve my ugly people/pretty people ratio by setting up my surveys at different entrances.
Lloyd Albritton publishes a series of commentaries, poetry, movie and book reviews on the Internet at He can be contacted at

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