One of the most oft-quoted sayings from the great Maya Angelou is this one: “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” It is a very critical lesson of life. Unfortunately, many of us don’t necessarily apply this statement the very first time we meet someone. Here, at Madame Noire, while mulling over story ideas, we thought about this quote more and how it applied to ourselves. I, for one, can say that as I have gotten older I’ve paid more attention to the actions and words of those around me.
It’s apparent that Angelou’s lesson can be applied to all types of relationships and situations, but it most clearly resonated with me in the case of friendships. Looking back, I can see how certain disappointing friends actually revealed their character to me, only for me to ignore them. Nonetheless, those same friends continued to show me who they were, causing a rift between us. Two examples include Sharita and Eve (names changed for obvious reasons).
Known for: Lies, lies and more lies
A few years ago, I reconnected with an old associate when she moved to the city I was residing in at the time. We became fast friends. Within months, I would consider her one of my closest friends and it was apparent that we had started to build a level of trust with each other that wasn’t so common in my post-college life. Six months later, that friendship evaporated. What happened? I became a victim of the little white lies I had seen her purge with others. At first, I didn’t mind those seemingly innocent lies. She would tell co-workers she had pre-existing obligations that prevented her from doing after work outings, she told her cousins she’d be out of town when they asked to come and visit her, etc. Needless to say, I ended up catching her in a hurtful lie that I should’ve seen coming. If she was so quick to tell lies to cover up these small incidents, you can imagine what she was capable of.
She is: The one you shouldn’t bring around a man of interest
Another friend of mine turned out to be more boy-crazy than I thought. I always knew she liked getting attention from men but I didn’t understand that her need could potentially cross the line. Mind you, she has yet to cross the line with me personally but recently I peeped behavior that definitely caused concern. A friend in the circle, who happens to be a married man, constantly flirts with her. Although I’ve repeatedly told her that it’s not appropriate for him to do so, and that she should set him straight verbally, she excuses his behavior as “innocent.” But this wasn’t the first time that I got a clear clue about Eve. She ‘s told me that she had dated a married man once who was separated from his wife. I realize that situations are more complicated than they may seem on the surface but if I were to heed Angelou’s words, I would’ve made noted that story about her affair with a separated-yet-still married man and understood what it was meant to communicate: that she is not someone who 100 percent respects the relationships of others. Could I eventually trust Eve around my own husband? If I do, I have to understand my own part in any potential wrongdoings.
It’s true that when you pay attention to what someone is communicating about themselves, it saves you a lot of pain and trauma in the long run. If a man tells you he’s not ready to settle down: believe him. When a co-worker tells you “all’s fair in business and war”; be careful around him. When a new girlfriend tells you that women are not to be trusted, watch out for that chick.
I’ve obviously had more great friends than I’ve had questionable friends, but I don’t know if most people can say the same. We’ve all met the person who is so jaded on people because of terrible experiences with family, friends, and lovers. But I’m of the mind that all adults have a part to play in their negative experiences. Oftentimes, many of those experiences can be avoided by paying attention Maya Angelou’s words.
As for myself, although I haven’t discarded every person that has come into life and who I’ve judged (rightfully so), I do keep a healthy distance from those that I know I can’t fully trust.
What’s your story? Are you good at protecting yourself against those with unhealthy attributes or intentions?
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