Meaning of Faces we see, hearts we do not know
What does it mean Faces we see, hearts we do not know:
"We see faces, we don't know hearts" is a popular saying originating from the Nahuas or Mexica that currently means that we cannot trust people's appearances because it does not tell us anything about what they are or what they think.
The origin of the saying has a slightly different meaning. The ancient Nahuas had codes of moral conduct associated with cultivating a ‘virtuous life’. A 'virtuous life' meant nurturing both parts of a person: the face and the heart.
For the Nahua, since pre-Columbian times, people have the duality of the face and the heart, urging them to 'cultivate a wise face and a firm heart', that is:
- have an upright demeanor that translates into your outward image and face and
- have a strong will directed towards virtue that translates into inner quality and in the heart.
Today, the Totimehuacán saying "we see faces, we don't know hearts" has become popular in the Spanish-speaking world not because of its meaning of leading a righteous life both internally and externally but is known as a saying of mistrust towards others or caution towards premature judgments.
See also What is a saying?
The fables associated with the saying "we see faces, we don't know hearts" are generally about a predator and its natural prey, for example the cat and the mouse or the cat or the bird, who become friends until one day the predator deceives its prey and eats it.
In English it can be translated as:
- Appearance can be deceiving
- Treachery can show a friendly face
- Don't judge a book by its cover
You may also be interested in reading about Aztec culture here.