You’ve likely heard the famous quotation by Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I haven’t always followed that advice well enough. I tend to be someone who sees the best in others to a fault, gives second and even third chances. Eventually, however, if it becomes clear to me that someone is operating with deliberately shady motives, I will depart the scene.
What is trickier for me to navigate is when someone harms me not because of malice, but because of their current inability to do better. We people are so complex, full of blessing and challenge. We are formed by all of our past experiences, and the culture in which we live. We also each have our unique makeup of how we're wired. Some of us may have never developed certain communication skills, others may have a kind of disability when it comes to specific interpersonal matters. Some of us may have aptitude loaded with potential, but lack the capacity to apply it with any measure of consistency. Many areas of weakness in the human condition require incredible awareness, effort, and ongoing practice to override. I view this process much like working certain muscles of our body in order to obtain a desired fitness result. Often it takes a lot of time to reach a goal and, once there, a disciplined commitment to maintain that improvement.
It can be quite confusing when experiencing the dysfunctional pieces of someone we love. (Note: We all have dysfunctional pieces!) We need to parse out harmful intent from blind spots or perhaps illness. When we are on the receiving end of bad or disappointing behavior it’s natural to feel angry and upset. As patterns repeat we can become disheartened and negative about the relationship altogether. Yet one way to relieve the pressure valve of frustration in these situations is to simply adjust our expectations. Just like we don’t expect infants to run, we also need to look realistically at our relationships and not expect others to be today who they have not yet become. By adjusting expectations we can take our feelings of disillusionment down a notch or two, and allow for compassion and patience to grow in us while we turn another’s development over to God.
May you be inspired!