There’s a saying that goes, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them – the first time.” If you’re anything like me, you’ve given the benefit of the doubt (maybe more than once) to someone who hasn’t deserved it. Perhaps you’ve trusted or put faith in someone who talked a good game. I think it is the nature of an optimistic spirit. We always want to see the best in people. We always hope.
Recently, however, I’ve been thinking about the relationships in my life – over the years – where at the end of the day, I just should have known better. In all of these instances, I can look back now and see where I made my mistake. Instead of believing what the person showed me to be true, I just hung too long on the potential of that person to be something they weren’t. (I actually married – and then divorced – “potential.”) This holding on was motivated by what I thought was a noble effort to see the good in the person, to overlook mistakes in judgment, and to give that person the time and nurturing they needed to “improve.” My unwillingness to just give up (because aren’t we all taught to never give up) resulted in relationships that honestly just sucked away energy. In retrospect, it all seems like a silly waste of time. I simply spent a lot of time making excuses and justifying behaviors that didn’t make me happy.
Please don’t misunderstand my point. I don’t expect anyone to be perfect. As one of THE most imperfect people on the planet, I expect that people will sometimes disappoint me. I also know that my expectations of people can be lofty. Honestly, even Superman himself would fall short on some days. I am working on that. But what I intend to convey is that sometimes we want to believe something so badly, we ignore the reality in front of us. And in that simple act of ignorance, while we are holding out for the potential of someone else, we are forgetting our own potential to be happy.
All of that said, some of my most rewarding relationships today are not always easy. In fact, they are the ones that push me to examine my own values and expectations; they prompt me to expand my thinking and to evolve both mentally and spiritually. But the people with whom I am in these relationships have been honest and forthcoming. They consistently show me who they are. And their actions are ones that always make me believe that my time, my energy, and my love are well spent.