You only have one chance to make a first impression.
Isn’t that what we’re all taught? We must try our best to leave a perception of ourselves to others so that they will walk away liking us. While this is true, it doesn’t happen with every person we meet. Although “first impressions are lasting,” it’s not fair to hold that view of a person without learning more about them.
I did not make a good first impression with the parents of the last guy I dated. (Likewise, I wasn’t so keen of the impression they left on me). However, because some of them held so tightly to their first impression, it obstructed any progression towards the future and created many difficulties in our relationship. As I stated, their first impression did not sit well with me, but I realized one moment was not the best determination of a person. I realized there were more factors that made up a person and caused them to act the way they did. This experience reminded me of John Mark in the Bible.
Everyone has an untold story hidden behind closed doors, try to understand that people are not always as they first seem.
The story of John Mark and Paul is best told in Acts 13-15. In Acts 13, Paul is on one of his missionary journeys, and John Mark decides, for whatever reason, to return to Jerusalem (his home). Later, when John returns in chapter 15, Paul doesn’t want him to accompany him on future travels. Patient Barnabas disagrees with Paul and this causes so strong of a disagreement, that Paul and Barnabas separate and Barnabas remains with John Mark. (Now, what happens during that time is unknown, but I like to assume the Holy Spirit was doing some major work in both the hearts of Paul and John Mark).
Paul held that one event over Mark’s head. So much that when he willingly returned, he didn’t want to have anything to do with him. He had a permanent “first impression” of him. We don’t know much about the ins-and-outs of the situation, but the silence or unwritten words may still reveal the truth. It seems as if Paul went to Barnabas and told him how he was hurt by John Mark, instead of going to John Mark and telling him himself. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem as if Paul even asked why John Mark abandoned them in the beginning. Have you ever had that happen to you? Someone could never get over what they first believed about you even when you tried new actions?
Years later, we encounter Paul again with a very different view as he writes young Timothy. He tells him, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). Hmmm….The person you were adamantly against, has become useful to you?
There is much to learn about first impressions through John Mark and Paul’s relationship.
- As much as we would like to make GREAT first impressions, they don’t always happen. We shouldn’t make judgments based off of a limited view. Even if the first impression is not an impressionable one, venture a little longer to see what may lie beneath.
- Just as we don’t know why John Mark decided to abandon the disciples, we don’t know what factors may cause a person to act a certain way when we first encounter them. They may be scared, they may be wounded, hurting, or misunderstood.
- As the childhood saying goes, “treat others as you would like to be treated.” I think Paul forgot this. When Saul (who became Paul) became a believer, he tried to join the disciples, but they feared him because of his past. But good ol’ Barnabas proclaimed the work God was doing in him and stood beside him, the same way he did for John Mark (Acts 9:26-30).
- Our past does not define us. Sometimes, you never even get a chance to make an impression on someone because a person has already “heard” such and such about you. Those things may have been true about you, but they aren’t today.
- Lastly, one person’s view of you cannot corrupt God’s plan or purpose for you. John Mark could have said, “Oh poor me, Paul, the great convert, does not approve of me. I’ve failed him. Everyone else must think the same thing about me. I might as well throw in the towel.” BUT he doesn’t. He continues in God’s calling for His life. The very man whose opinion could have destroyed him, later changes his mind and realizes how useful he truly was. Did you even know he wrote the Gospel of Mark? Won’t He do it!
Although I know, God’s plan will prevail, let’s think for a minute. What if Mark didn’t have anyone who decided to look past his first impression? He may not have become who he is today.
I want to make good first impressions, but I don’t want to be judged by my first impressions. Likewise, with the people we encounter and our students, let’s look past how they treated us the first time we met. Let’s not assume how a kid was in 8th grade will be the same in 9th grade. Let’s not discredit everything one person says because they didn’t “rub you the right way” when you first met.
One never gets a second chance to make a first impression, but remember the first impression is not the last chance to make a good impression.