“Never look a gift horse in the mouth.” This would be good advice if you were a resident of Troy, or if you were given a horse that looked a little sick around the withers. It could definitely turn out bad for you in either situation. The phrase means, of course, that you should doubt people’s motivations, regardless of whether or not they appear pure. I completely disagree with that.
Yes, I know that there are many people out there who are less than genuine, who smile in your face while they talk about you behind your back. And I know that you shouldn’t trust anyone who tells you to “trust me.” But I can’t help giving people the benefit of the doubt. Does that make me weak or too trusting? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t want to imagine a world where I was constantly on guard.
I know a lot of people who live on the defensive, always getting themselves ready for those hordes of Greeks to pour out of the body of that enormous horse. And do you know how they always look? Frazzled, as if they’ve been fighting an ongoing war for the majority of their lives. They always tell me that everything’s good, but it’s not, and how can it be? Being distrustful of every single person you meet takes its toll on you. And why should it?
I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about how stupid the people of Troy were, so unsuspecting of a gift from their enemies, how I wouldn’t have been so dumb in their position, but she brought up a good point. Usually there isn’t just the obvious “evil” person out there, doing the obvious “evil” things. Most times it’s someone you wouldn’t suspect doing those “evil” things. She told me to think about the reactions of serial killers’ neighbors. When they interview those neighbors about the serial killer in their neighborhood, they always ask how the person seemed. And the answer is always, “He seemed so normal.”
Therein lies the rub. I don’t spend my life being gullible and expecting the best from everyone. I would probably notice the nocturnal habits of my neighbor, or the screams in the night coming from his basement, or the sounds of people shuffling around in the belly of a wooden horse, for that matter. But that doesn’t mean I need to be wary of everyone in the process. Luckily I don’t live in Troy or in a world where everyone is a flat character, and it’s a good thing I can judge for myself on an individual basis. It helps keep the gray hair from infringing even more than it has. And hopefully I do recognize those gift horses when they show up at my gates, but if I don’t, that’s okay too. I’m only human.