When Someone Shows You Who They Are, Believe Them
The sentence that gives this month’s column its title was spoken by Maya Angelou in her infinite wisdom. This is a quote that I heard probably a decade ago or thereabouts for the first time. I thought I knew its meaning, and I realized I just fully grasped it recently, as in the past couple of months. Ms. Angelou herself explained this golden life lesson: “If someone says to you ‘I’m selfish’, ‘I’m mean’ or ‘I am unkind’ or even ‘I am crazy’, believe them because they know themselves much better than you do.”
More often than not, those of us who don’t trust life would say to the other person: “Don’t say a thing like that” or “You’re not really crazy or unkind”. And as soon as you say that, the person hits you like a slap across your face by showing you just how mean, or selfish they are, to prove to you how right they were about themselves (of course they were, they said it themselves), and how wrong you were about them.
Life is funny, isn’t it? Such a constant paradox. Why be angry at someone who verbally said, acted and showed you who they really were?
This brings back so many past experiences with dating, for example, where I was expecting the guy sitting across from me on a date to just be the version of who I had already made him up in my mind, when in fact, he had already given me so many signs of the kind of person he truly was. Talk about denial.
I also see it clearly in my relationship to family members and friends. I wasted so many tears for people who didn’t deserve them, wasted so much time waiting for people to magically start behaving in a different way - when change could not be farther from what they were willing to choose in life.
I am here from the future to tell you not to waste your suffering because it is sacred. People are who they are, and rarely have I seen someone change out of his or her own volition. When it does happen, it is almost always after a catastrophic event occurred in that person’s life.
There is a time where we have to put our big boy or big girl pants on, and take individuals who are toxic out of our lives. Simply let that person go. It will be the best for both of you. Many times someone has to be given an ultimatum so that they can see the impact of their behavior on others.
When you look at the process of waiting on someone who told you they were going to do something and they didn’t, who told they were going to be there for you and they weren’t, that individual is showing you who they are. That means somebody who cannot be trusted. So why would you trust them again?
We must have the courage of our convictions to know what is best for us. Even if we are talking about a parent, there has to be a line drawn in the sand and we must stand up for ourselves. No more tolerating neglect, lies, attacks on your character or the diminishing of your soul.
As an adult, the highest gift you can give anyone is your time - if they are not worth it, move along.
Remember this: When people show you who they are, believe them - the first time. Do not wait until the 30th time to suddenly have an epiphany. Life, and human beings, are always giving you hints. Pay attention.