I’m a recovering benefit of the doubt giver.
I’ve given someone the benefit of the doubt more often than I should have.
I’ve given someone the benefit of the doubt even after my spidey sense had perked up, made me pause and think–wait…what?
I’ve given someone the benefit of the doubt even when they clearly weren’t being kind or didn’t share my values.
Because I’m also a recovering people pleaser.
Let’s just say these two traits haven’t always been a winning combination for me.
So, I’m in recovery.
I was set on this recovery path by a quote I recently discovered from Maya Angelou:
When someone shows you who they are, believe them; the first time.”
I wish I would have discovered this quote years ago. I’ve collected quotes for as long as I can remember and never came across this one. If I had, it may have changed my life.
I would have used it every time I met someone.
I would have used it every new relationship.
It would have saved me a crap ton of pain.
All of us put on a good face when we are first getting to know someone. But after a while, we let our hair down because we all just want to be who we are. That’s when our true self emerges. We see who someone is by how they handle their mistakes or their frustrations. We see who someone is by how they treat the waitress. We see who someone is by how they talk about people who are different from them.
And when we see something that doesn’t feel right–when that spidey sense perks up– it’s time ask ourselves the following questions:
- Does this person have good intentions?
- Does this person usually act with kindness?
- Does this person’s values align with mine?
- Is this person trustworthy?
If we can answer yes to any of these, then it’s probably okay to give someone the benefit of the doubt. We are all human and make mistakes. We all say or do something we wish we could take back.
But if the answer for all of them is no, then it’s time to pause and remember–this person is showing us who they are. We may be seeing a pattern. This isn’t about judgment. It’s about awareness and taking care of ourselves. And if who they are doesn’t work for us, it’s time to set a boundary for what we will and won’t tolerate.
I do believe it’s often good for us to be around people who challenge us. They can help us grow, see a situation in a new way or hone our own beliefs.
But if someone’s values are very different than ours, it may be impossible to bridge the gap. Someone’s intentions may not noble. And some people just aren’t kind and can’t be trusted. If we don’t pay attention when someone shows us who they are, we can spend a lot of time giving energy to relationships that don’t work for us or are doomed to fail.
So heed that spidey sense. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
And if who someone is doesn’t work for you, set a boundary, wish them well, and with kindness and grace, move on.