What You See Is(n’t) What You Get

by Ashley on May 7, 2012

WYSIWYG. (Pronounced “wizzy-wig.” Obviously. *eye-roll*)

If you’re familiar with content management systems, you probably recognize this acronym as “what you see is what you get.” If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s the easy way of editing websites or blog posts for non-HTML-savvy folk. (Stick with me; this isn’t about HTML, I promise.)

The Problem with WYSIWYG

When I was first learning to blog on CMS, I stuck with the WYSIWYG editor because I had no idea how to get into the HTML without breaking the website. Believe me, I could blow up a website like nobody’s business.

But as I got more technically competent with CMS, I was less afraid to make updates in the HTML code editor. I was able to make more complex changes, and I could make sure the site or blog looked exactly like I wanted. After getting more comfortable with HTML, I couldn’t trust the WYSIWYG editor anymore. Among other issues, it would screw up my spacing. (And as I’ve already established, I’m a recovering perfectionist, so I can’t stand screwed up spacing.)

Even though editing code can be maddening (like that missing quotation mark that’s throwing everything off!), it’s still less frustrating than the WYSIWYG editor because at least I can poke around and find the problem (eventually).

With what-you-see-is-what-you-get, sometimes I never can figure out what’s messing up the look of the site. It’s not until I go into the code that I discover the problem. Like that stupid missing quotation mark.

The Problem with Trusting Your Eyes

What-you-see-is-what-you-get is also a lousy way to evaluate people. Like editing a website, sometimes you have to know what’s going on behind the scenes so you can see what the real problem is. And a lot of the time, we’ll never know what’s going on in the background.

Take, for example, a stranger who is a mega-jerk for no reason. Or a co-worker who has a super-bad attitude. Maybe they had a fight with their girlfriend, or they didn’t get the job they were hoping for. But these situations are easy to relate to, and therefore easier to forgive without being too judgmental.

So what about when we’re critical of bigger things? More serious things?

Take, for example, that girl walking around the mall who looks about 14 years old and 7 months pregnant. Don’t we often stick an elbow into the person we’re with and make a disapproving assessment of her morals or upbringing?

Maybe nine times out of ten, we’d be right. But what if, one time, we were wrong. What if she was raped 7 months ago and couldn’t bring herself to have an abortion? Or what if she’s been married two years and she just looks young for her age? I was terrified of that when I was first married because I’m regularly mistaken as being anywhere between 5 and 10 years younger than I am (oh, the misfortune). As a 23-year-old bride, though, you can see why this might be a problem.

There are plenty of other examples of times we make critical assessments when we can’t understand why on earth people look/behave/respond the way they do. In grade school, this could even be deemed bullying, depending on what the reaction is.

The Fix

Ever since we were born, we’ve been seeing with our eyes. We have to learn to see with our hearts, because compassion is the only fix.

This topic is on my mind because a few times lately I’ve been on the receiving end of critical judgments. Some things I’ve said have been misunderstood, and the listener’s knee-jerk reaction was to make an embarrassing remark in return.

Part of the burden is on me because I should have chosen my words more carefully. After all, I’m a “words person” (kind of like we fall into the category of “cat person” or “dog person” or, in my husband’s case, “bacon person”).

But I was still hurt because 1. that person didn’t care that the response might embarrass me and 2. my intent was completely misunderstood, so the response was unwarranted.

Overall, though, this incident was minor compared to some of the things I’ve thought or even said about other people.

But I’m getting better at digging a little deeper. Even if I never get to ask that stranger what’s going on in her life, I’ll dig inside myself and ask why I’m judging, why criticize, why assume the worst? How can I, because I don’t have all the information.

What I see is all I’m getting, but it’s not all there is.

Have you ever assumed the worst and then found out the situation wasn’t what you thought?


Love this, Ashley – a great reminder to not be so quick to judge.

by Sharon Hurley Hall on May 7, 2012 at 10:41 am. Reply #

Thanks for stopping by, Sharon!

by Ashley on May 7, 2012 at 10:44 am. Reply #

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