You may have heard the expression, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”

As a result, most of us strive to consciously put our best foot forward.  We try to look presentable in public, be cordial when meeting someone new and carry ourselves in the best possible light.

Many believe equally or more important is what we do in private.  It is often said, character is who we are when no one is looking.  How we act and what we do if we knew (or thought) no one could see us nor find out what we were doing determines who we are down deep.

Acclaimed author and pastor, Bill Hybels, even wrote a book a number of years ago entitled who you are when no one’s is looking – choosing consistency, resisting compromise.

However, I recently came across a situation where I had to consider a third alternative - what we do in public (usually out of emotion) when we don’t consider others may be (and probably are) watching.  

While driving down the interstate the other day I heard a long steady horn blasting from behind me.  Somewhat alarmed, I turned and noticed a car speeding by with another in close pursuit.  The trailing car had an arm extended from the driver’s window with an outstretched finger pointing towards….heaven.  At the opposite end was an angry-faced woman scowling intently while muttering something out the window.

As their cars faded from sight, I continued my leisurely drive speculating what could have caused this sort of reaction from this very “animated” driver.  Was she side-swiped, tailgated, following up on some other “unjust” action bestowed upon her, or just angry someone got in front of her?

Whatever the reason, I concluded a “major” infraction probably hadn’t occurred nor had anything that warranted the response she displayed along that mile stretch of road.  Nevertheless, many of those who witnessed her actions probably formulated some sort of (negative) view of her at that moment.

Even though we “shouldn’t” be in the habit of making assumptions or snap judgments about a person, (especially) based solely on a single isolated incident, it’s difficult to witness someone’s reaction to a situation and not consider it as a part of their standard behavioral conduct or character quality (or flaw), if we didn’t know anything else about them.

Several years ago, a campaign started to challenge us to consider “What Would Jesus Do” (WWJD) in each and every situation we encountered.  There were bracelets, hats, and all sorts of paraphernalia to remind us and each other to think about what Jesus’ response would be if He were in our shoes.

I remember being “put to the test” years later when my bags were inadvertently transferred to the wrong flight and I showed up to my destination without any of my luggage.  Fortunately, ahead of me at the airline’s baggage service office was a gentleman who appeared to be in the same position as I.  He clearly wasn’t seeking what Jesus would do in this situation as he belittled, criticized and berated the agent.  This allowed me enough time to get my emotions in check and think through my predicament clearly and objectively.

By the time my “opportunity” came, I could see the agent was obviously rattled, somewhat irritated and a bit angry.  Instead of adding my frustration to this person’s aggravation, I approached it more humorously (and compassionately).  With a smile I said, “Can you believe him?  I’m in the same boat.  I know you had nothing to do with my missing luggage, but here are my baggage tags and I would appreciate anything you can do for me.”