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Appearances Can Be Deceptive

Don’t be quick to judge!

by Rebecca Parkinson (revised, originally published in 2010)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the fact that we shouldn’t judge people by their appearance.

Preparation and materials


  1. Ask for six volunteers to make up two teams of three people. Explain that you are going to show a series of pictures and that you want the volunteers to guess what the people shown in the pictures are famous for.

    Alternatively, divide everyone in the assembly down the middle of the hall and allow students from either side to have a go at guessing (if necessary, give clues!).

    For most of the pictures, you will need to tell the students what the people are famous for. You may need to point out that some of the pictures show saints. Ask the students to guess what these people are saints of.

    After each explanation, make a remark such as, ‘Well, you wouldn’t have expected that!’

  2. Show the first image.

    This picture shows Nelson Mandela, who fought against apartheid (enforced segregation and separate development of races) in South Africa. For this, he spent 27 years in prison. Four years after his release, he became President of South Africa, working hard to bring reconciliation and peace.

  3. Show the second image.  

    This picture shows St Isidore of Seville. During his life, he sought to bring education to the people. He is now the patron saint of the Internet!

  4. Show the third image.  

    This picture shows St Apollonia, who is the patron saint of toothache! According to legend, she refused to give up being a Christian, so she was tortured by having all her teeth broken before being burned alive.

  5. Show the fourth image.  

    The person in this picture is Mother Teresa, who spent her life helping the sick and destitute, particularly in India. By 2007, ten years after her death, her charity was operating 600 missions, schools and shelters in 120 countries.

  6. Show the fifth image.  

    This is a picture of Alexander Fleming, who discovered the antibiotic penicillin and thereby saved the lives of millions of people.

  7. Show the sixth image.  

    This woman is Irena Sendler, who, during the Second World War, managed to smuggle about 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, saving their lives. The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of all the Jewish ghettos and contained 400,000 Jews in just 1.3 square miles.

  8. Point out that most of the students’ guesses were incorrect. Students were probably surprised by what each person was famous for. Most people who have achieved something amazing don’t look that special.

  9. Explain that when we see people, we often make assumptions about them based on what they look like, what they are wearing or even how they speak. We often decide what people are like on the inside by the way they appear on the outside.

  10. There is a story in the Bible about how a boy called David was chosen to become the next king of Israel.

    God told the prophet, Samuel, to go to the village of Bethlehem where a farmer, Jesse, lived with his family. Here, Samuel would find the future king.

    Jesse’s eldest son came before Samuel. He was a tall, strong young man. Samuel thought, ‘I’m looking at the future king.’

    However, God told Samuel that Jesse’s eldest son was not to be the king. God said, ‘Human beings look on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.’ Jesse’s seven grown-up sons came before Samuel, but God rejected them all. To Samuel, these men looked like ideal choices to be king, but God knew what they were really like.

    ‘Don’t you have any more sons?’ asked Samuel.

    ‘Only the youngest, David. He’s out looking after the sheep.’

    ‘Send for David,’ said Samuel.

    It turned out that God had chosen David to be anointed as the future king, even though he was still a boy, looking after his dad’s sheep.

  11. We all need to be more concerned about what people are like on the inside than about their outward appearance. Let’s make an effort this term to apply this idea and give everyone a fair chance.

    Let’s also make sure that we are the sort of people who don’t just look good, but actually are good on the inside.

Time for reflection

Do we condemn some people because the way they look doesn’t quite live up to our expectations of how people should look?

Are there some people we avoid because they dress differently, have different hairstyles or speak differently from us?

If so, why not make an effort this week to speak to some of these people – you may be surprised at what you discover!

Dear God,
Thank you that you have made us all different.
Sometimes, it’s easy to keep away from people who seem to be a bit different from us, and to judge them.
Please help us to treat other people as we would like them to treat us.
Help us to be respectful and always to give everyone a fair chance.

Publication date: August 2020   (Vol.22 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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