Okay, okay! I have one.
I remember it was maybe thirteen or fourteen years ago when I first heard this phrase. I was working in a touring company of the Christmas show. We were in Seattle at the time. And here’s where things get fuzzy … I don’t remember the particulars of the tale, but I do remember the context, and the quotable. (Yeah, I know this makes for a weak story. Sue me.)
Bernard (one of the dancers in the company) and I were out for coffee or something and he recounted a tale of some former lover or friend. The “friend” or lover told him of past relationships, bits and piece of which struck him as inappropriate; but since it was early in their relationship he dismissed the tales with a wink and a nod.
An incident occurred in their relationship where the “friend” some egregious act that seemed very much in line with the behaviors in the friend’s foretold stories. When Bernard called the “friend” out on his behavior, the friend downplayed the severity of the incident and convinced him that he had no cause for alarm.
A second, and far more appalling incident transpired. Bernard confronted the friend about the transgression, and the “friend’s” reply was something along the lines of, “I told you who I am. This is who I am.”
Bernard told in that moment he learned a very important lesson—
When people show you who they are, believe them.
I erupted in nervous laughter because the lesson seemed to obvious, but I quickly flipped through instances in my own life when people showed me who they were and I held on my image of who I wanted them to be.
“Big mistake.” —Vivian Ward, in the movie PRETTY WOMAN.
Bernard and I wanted to give our respective friends the benefit of the doubt, despite our intuitive, gut reaction.
Given the events on the national stage and recent events in my own life, I’ve found this to be truer now than I did then.
People can say anything in order to win your confidence or favor. As the saying goes, talk is cheap. Talk may come from what’s in a person’s heart, but remember the human heart is a deceptive thing with a mind all its own. Don’t believe me, as a jilted lover. I’m not implying that we shouldn’t pay close attention to what people do. In fact, we should watch what people do all the more because actions grow out of the way people think. You don’t just go to the store, pick up a steak and potato for dinner, and then prepare it without thinking about it … unless you’re some carnivore chef de cuisine and you grab a steak and prepare without thinking about it because that’s what you do. Even then, it’s so ingrained in who you are and your daily routine that you don’t have to give it a thought.
But back to us non-carnivore chefs de cuisine.
If I want a steak and potato for dinner, I give thought to the cut of meat, the preparation, the seasoning, am I even in the mood to go to the trouble of preparing the dang thing, blah, blah, blah. My point: cooking dinner and following through on most choice are intentional acts.
The same goes for presidents who talk about grabbing women by their genitals. Everyday men don’t joke like that. That’s the talk of a misogynist. Or people who keep moving the goal post in recounting whether or not they’ve had meetings with Russian oligarchs. If you keep changing your story, chances are, you’re not telling the truth. If you’re not owning up to your change of heart or following up to properly bring an end to a relationship you initiated, you more than likely … well, you get my point. Follow you instincts people until you’re proven otherwise. It’s okay to be opinionated, just don’t be intolerable. We have hunches for a reason: because something in our subconscious recognizes something or someone as false.
For me, the triggers are when people don’t give me a straight answer. You want to have me not trust you? Be evasive. You want to have me lose all respect for you? Follow that evasiveness with a bald-faced lie. When people don’t keep their word, a loss of credibility is almost impossible to recover from in my book. I can forgive, but the road back to trust is a long and rocky one.
I’ve had people lie to my face and then they wonder why I’m distant. “I keep you much farther than arm’s length because you’re a freaking liar.” How’s that?
Better slow down here. Sorry about that, kids. Who knew that quotable was spring loaded? [writer wipes sweat from brow, lowers hackles]
Anyway, when people show you who they are, believe them. Until they show you something different and you have reason to believe otherwise.
Love one another.