If Someone Show's You Who They Are...

Watched an episode of Oprah Winfrey and she quoted Maya Angelou who said, "If someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

You know, I think that's a pretty good line. I do. I'm still turning it over in my mind and testing the "truth" of it. But my initial assessment is that it's true.

I understand that Oprah used it in a line at a graduation speech at Wellesley College to warn young women to stay away from relationships where they are mistreated or lied to. There is too much abuse and betrayal that is tolerated because we ignore warning signs. People show us who they are. We are often too wedded to what we think of a person, too fixated on our own fantasy of that person, to open our eyes to the reality that is staring us in our faces and accept that this person really may not be who we thought (or hoped) they were.

For the most part, "if someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time" is good advice.

I write this last proviso, not to undermine or disagree with the sage advice of the poet Maya Angelou, but to admit that I'm not totally sold on its truth. Truth, to me, is always true. While I mostly agree with Maya Angelou (maybe 80% of the time), there's a part of me that struggles with this particular "rule to live by."

I have these "truth tests" that I run in my mind when I hear a quote from somebody. The chief truth test is to look to see how one person's wise counsel is working for them. It is interesting to me that in America we are often taking relationship advice from people who are not in committed, happy marriages that bear the mark of longevity. (This is why I just can't give a complete endorsement to the quote.) I do not know of Maya Angelou being in a long-term committed relationship with a man. Oprah is pretty private, but I don't think she's married to Mr. Stedman Graham either.

The same seems to be true of so many relationship experts that offer this "empowering" advice. So few of them are married. Self-help guru Barbara De Angelis is divorced from self-help guru John Gray (author of Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus). Why are we married people eating up advice from Oprah who ... isn't married?!

So, that's what I'm musing about this Saturday evening. It's a pretty good quote. Too many of us hurt ourselves because we put on our blinders and keep allowing ourselves to be hurt by people who have done everything but tell us outright that they don't truly care for us. They've shown us who they are. And we ought to believe them. It sure would save us a lot of hurt!

I only wish that the quote was created and repeated by a Dollie Parton type who has been married to the same man for the last 43 years. Then, I think I could endorse this quote without prevarication or equivocation.


Brian said…
Well as for Dolly I believe even she has been noted for her extra-marital affairs with various people. But I will say this about the Maya Angelou's statement....No one is perfect and if you see something in a person that maybe offensive to you, then you should do what seems best for you. However know this that human behavior is transitory and where you find me today may not be where I end up so be patient and recognize that there may be some shifting going on in the right direction. So don't throw the baby out with the bath water!
nvral1 said…
Sometimes sound advice lends credibility through negative experiences rather than longevity. Longevity simply means longevity.
Mia said…
And there are lots of people in seemingly long "happy" marriages that aren't really happy. You still have to weigh any truth for yourself no matter who says it or what their background is or if their experience meets some human based criteria created to make life is easier and less work for the person making the criteria. Just sayin'.

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