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. Why? 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.”
One day, when my son got off the school bus, he was all out of sorts. I don’t remember what the issue was, only that he was not his normal self. There was a mom, Jenny, who picked up her daughter at the same stop. When she saw the state my son was in she said:
Everybody’s working on something.
Her words have stayed with me ever since. When someone in the checkout line at Target is cranky, cuts me off in traffic, or says something rude, I think of this statement and wonder–what is that person working on? Are they experiencing something really hard to deal with right now? Thinking about it in this way gives me a chance to pause and find a bit of compassion. Everybody’s working on something–be it a hard day at school or work, a cancer diagnosis, or loneliness. Sometimes these things feel like a heavy backpack, the weight of which causes people to lose their cool and say or do something out of character.