Beware the Halo Effect!

Are you familiar with the “halo effect?” It refers to our tendency to judge a person based on only one characteristic  that we find attractive or impressive. It’s as if we place a halo over their heads; they can do no wrong. We do this especially with those we think are physically attractive. We think: They’re good-looking, so surely they’re also intelligent and talented. The opposite of the halo effect is the “devil effect.” We dislike one thing about a person, or find something about them unappealing, and we write them off entirely.

I think that some of this was going on in today’s Scripture readings. In the story from Daniel, we heard of a terrible rush to judgment. The crowds were absolutely convinced that the two elders were telling the truth, because they were seen as respected and wise religious figures. And that almost got Susanna killed!

Then, in our gospel, certain Pharisees were absolutely sure that Jesus wasn’t who he claimed to be- because he didn’t fit into their pre-conceived notions. And that ultimately did get Jesus killed.

Now, the judgments you and I make don’t generally have life-and-death ramifications. However, the judgments we make do have the potential to deeply hurt others, when we judge them wrongly.

Our Lord challenges us to be aware of this, and proceed with caution. So we don’t rush to judgment; so we don’t just judge by appearances. Jesus said to his Pharisee critics: I do not judge, but when I do judge, my judgment is right, because my Father is with me.

We would do well to follow Jesus’ example- to suspend judgment, until we’re able to judge like him.

Readings for today’s Mass:

Photo credit: Ha-Wee via Creative Commons