From drawings of Will Smith’s enlarged ears to Bill Clinton’s bulbous nose and Angelina Jolie’s voluptuous lips…we’ve all seen them: caricatures. A person’s overall appearance is dwarfed in order to accentuate a particular feature. Jutting jaws become “juttier,” toothy grins become “toothier,” bulging eyes become “bulgier,” as the artist attempts to highlight specific physical attributes. Caricatures are clever, creative and usually harmless.
But there exists another kind of caricature far from harmless. It’s the sort we draw in our minds when we focus on others’ weaknesses. The longer we dwell on their flaws, the larger those flaws loom. Before we realize it, we come to identify the people more by the warped images in our thinking than by the totality of who they are…image bearers of their Creator.
Caricatures distort reality. Psalm 73 depicts the psalmist’s inflated view of the arrogant and ungodly. “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills” (verses 4-5). This caricature grew so strong in him that he concluded he had “in vain kept his heart pure” (verse 13). His perception that the wicked live easy, painless lives of perfection fostered the image of yet another caricature—that God is unfair. The lie had taken over.
That’s the danger of caricatures. The single focus blinds us to “all” of the truth until our total outlook becomes distorted. And distorted it remains unless we allow the Lord to intervene. When the psalmist finally entered the presence of God he recognized his foolishness and repented. Truth was restored.
So the next time someone’s ego sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb or another’s insensitive criticalness appears like exaggerated arched eyebrows, don’t ignore it. But don’t let it be the basis of your perception. Don’t let the flaws become so disproportional to the entirety of the person that you mistakenly think it’s who they are.