Thursday, November 17, 2011
A Lesson from Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou said, "When people show you who they are, believe them the first time." When I first heard this, I just paused. I wasn't sure if I believed that and something about it didn't feel right. My first thought was, "What about all the times that I've unintentionally hurt others and they continued to support me and give me another chance? I thank God for those people!" I want to be a merciful and patient person. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt and always believe the best. I don't want to believe something about a person because of one behavior. I also want to be smarter about good self-care and not routinely become someone else's doormat! Surely there has got to be a good balance in there somewhere.
Every now and again I will have a brief moment of clarity on a tough issue. My understanding of a problem or its solution will show its face like an image emerging in a cloudy crystal ball, then it's gone again. But for that one moment I felt a knowing. This is how many of us gain a new insight or how some of us move into acceptance of an issue as opposed to just being aware of it. I realized this week the truth of Maya Angelou's statement. When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. Take note of the behavior that was just displayed and adjust yourself within that relationship. This does not mean I have to stop believing in the good in the person. This does not mean that I give up on this person. It doesn't mean I become unkind or unforgiving toward them. What it does mean is that I can practice healthy and loving safeguards within that relationship so that I do not have to be hurt in the same way again by this same person! It does mean that I should take note of the other person's behavior and know they are capable of it again. It is good to believe the truth of another person's behavior. I can be respectful to the other person while also believing and knowing their potential for hurtful behavior.
It feels right to be given permission to trust my instincts. When someone shows me unhealthy behavior, my instinct is self-preservation and that is OK. It is not selfish. This is a loving act toward myself. I can love myself without being cruel to other people. In fact, it's really not very loving to the other people to allow them to continue practicing their unhealthy behavior with me time and time again. I see now that I can set a limit with other people simply by putting up some protection around myself! I don't have to go to someone and confront their behavior everytime. Often I can just observe their behavior and establish a boundary around ME. This actually speaks volumes to other people. Thank God for moments of clarity.
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