That’s a quote from Maya Angelou via Oprah, and it’s damn good advice. Out of 25 years, that’s the main thing I’m taking from her show, though there have been many other wise and inspiring things.
I had a lifelong habit of allowing toxic, pushy and generally unhealthy people in my life and making excuses for them.
This week I ended two new friendships that I thought were going to be a “go.” Unfortunately, I discovered that one woman mostly wanted to gossip and whine about the problems where we live, and the other woman mostly wanted to “hold court,” blab on about everything in her life, and allow me to fit into her life but not much else. If it was convenient for her, she did it. Otherwise, no. Not even considerate enough to ask how I’m doing or what’s going on with me. Or listen for a measurable length of time when I tried to say! And did I mention that I “live too far away?” (10 miles!)
Both friendships had become very uncomfortable for me. I was dismayed that this was taking place, and tried to deny it to myself. Initially, I had really liked these women but their demeanor and behavior became increasingly problematic, and rather quickly too. It is clear to me that they expected me to put up with how they are. It is also clear that they wanted to base our friendship upon their rules and boundaries without much consideration for mine.
Instead of letting these relationships fester on the way I’ve always done, I simply just ended them. Knowing it would be futile, I didn’t bother trying to tell them how I felt. Been there, done that.
It feels good. Unusual and a bit awkward, but basically, in my gut… good.
I’ve also been allowing a long-term friendship to fade away, and I know she’s doing the same with me. We’re just very different people now, and our lives are very different. I have to face the fact that I find her intimidating and judgmental and not allow it anymore. I’m tired of walking on eggshells around her. I still love her and care about her deeply, but “things’s got ta change.”
It’s rather sad to make these realizations, but we can’t run from it. In order to be healthy, we must be proactive. That takes wisdom, strength, and courage. And a knowing that for us, we’re correct regardless of what the other person hurls back at us (yes, that happened in one instance).
So… when people show you who they are, believe them. It saves a lot of time and aggravation.
Meanwhile, my other friendships are going well.
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I really like this blog post: (bolded emphasis is mine)
“When people show you who they are, believe them.” - Maya Angelou
It seems simple, yes? Judge people by their behavior. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
In my experience, people will continuously ignore evidence that they personally witness in order to preserve their illusions. Hell, I’m guilty of this myself – learning this lesson on a permanent basis has been one of the great challenges of my life.
Consider these examples:
- A woman is dating a man who is nice to her, but consistently treats service people like shit. The most likely cause? He’s a dick. But the woman won’t believe that – she’ll make excuses.
- A man’s mother consistently cuts him down and makes him feel small and worthless. The most likely cause? She’s a critical harpy. But the man won’t believe that – he’ll make excuses.
- A man occasionally gets drunk and smacks his wife around, but is otherwise a “decent guy.” The most likely cause? He’s a wife-beater. But his wife won’t believe that – she’ll make excuses.
- A work-mate never seems able to perform their own work, and is constantly asking their co-workers to do their work, or help them because it’s an emergency, or bail them out. The most likely cause? She’s incompetent, or lazy, or both. But the co-worker doesn’t believe that – he’ll make excuses.
Why do we refuse to see the evidence before our eyes? Are we so easily swayed by good intentions that we’ll ignore months or years of bad behavior on the simple word of the perpetrator that they’re really not like that or that they’re really trying to do better?
These people really are dicks, or critical harpies, or wife-beaters, or lazy incompetents.
If someone treats you unkindly, the most likely reason is because they’re unkind.
If someone tells a lie, the most likely reason is because they’re a liar.
If someone refuses to do their fair share of the work, the most likely reason is because they’re a lazy git.
They’re not going to change because they say they are. They’ll change when they’re damn good and ready, and not before. And they may not change at all.
I have a tendency to give people the benefit of the doubt. I give the benefit of the doubt long past the time when there is no more doubt. Maybe because I want to trust, I want to believe people are trying to do the right thing, I want to believe people are basically good. Seems a bit strange for a cynic like me. But it’s true.
I’m reminded of a quote from Batman Begins: “…it’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.”
Thanks for the articulate post hot chick! More fun and interesting posts at http://www.hotchicksdigsmartmen.com