Believe People When They Show You Who They Are

I was a bit of an oddball growing up.  When most of my friends were fawning over the latest Tiger Beat magazine, I was busy reading and collecting Ann Landers’ advice column along with John Rosemond’s parenting advice.  

Little did I know I was laying the groundwork for becoming a future life and parenting coach.  It’s funny how life works out.

Back then, I thought Ann Landers was the smartest woman on Earth.  No matter the situation, she knew exactly what to say and it always made perfect sense to me.  I made it a point to memorize some of her best advice and loved to share it with anyone that would listen.  Don’t get me started on the ones I cut out and kept.  Did I mention I was an odd ball?  

I must have read hundreds, if not thousands, of her columns.  But there was one particular advice that stayed with me throughout the years.  I cut it out and saved it in my wallet for years until it eventually turned yellow and tattered.

The cherished column tells the tale of a girl who is on her way to visit her grandmother and comes upon a snake who begs her to carry him into town.  She turns him down saying that he’s a snake and would bite her.  He pleads and pleads until he finally convinces her to carry him into town.  Once they arrive, she pulls him out of her pocket to place him on the ground and as she does so, he bites her.  She is shocked and reprimands him.  “Why did you bite me?  You promised you wouldn’t”, she cried.  His reply, “Well, you knew what I was when you picked me up.”

This blew my mind!  Best advice EVER.  Years later when I discovered Maya Angelou’s famous quote, “When people show you who they are, believe them,” it instantly brought back memories of the snake story I had read years earlier.

It’s such a simple concept, but so difficult for some people.

But why? 

I think it’s because most people are kind, caring, and compassionate and want to give others the benefit of the doubt.  We tend to superimpose our values onto them and rationalize to over-ride our inner wisdom (see last week’s blog post on self-trust).

I’ll be honest, even though I carried that column around for years, I too have been guilty of picking up one or two charming snakes in my lifetime, but I have learned to enforce my snake-free zone.

So when someone shows themselves to be untrustworthy, trust that this is who they are and this is how they are going to show up in the relationship. Deal with them the same way you would a poisonous snake.  Trust that they will be who they are and they will act the way they always act.  

So look at it this way…the good news is most people are as they appear to be.  The bad news is, most people are as they appear to be.

In the meantime, surround yourself with people who are capable and willing to be kind to you and leave the snake handling to the herpetologists.