It’s one of my favorite quotes from the great Maya Angelou, and it’s so very true in every sense of the phrase. Yet many times we naively think, “he or she will change”, and “it will be different this time”. Then we’re surprised when someone does something that is in their true character to do, after turning a blind eye to the realities of the situation. I remember talking to a counselor and telling her about my mother-in-law’s behavior following a recent visit. I was surprised as she seemed so nonchalant about what I was telling her. In contrast, I was livid!
My mother-in-law’s horrible behavior had reached new heights! Then she looked at me and said “I’m not surprised, and I don’t know why you are either.” She continued by telling me that my mother-in-law had been consistent, and had shown me who she truly was a long time ago, so why was I surprised by the things she continued to do. I was dumbfounded. All I could do was be silent and reflect on the magnitude of her incredibly simple summary of the situation. I realized I naively thought things would eventually be different; that with time she would change. I had given her the benefit of the doubt time and time again, but at that moment, I realized I hadn’t accepted her for who she truly was.
Accepting someone for who they are goes hand in hand with the saying “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.” I remember a friend of mine calling me while her mother-in-law was in town for a visit. After a horrible series of events during my friend’s baby shower, it was the first time she was seeing her mother-in-law since everything unfolded. Her MIL had offered a “side eye” apology and thus far the visit was going well. She was being respectful and inclusive which made my friend tell me that it might be ok to let her guard down. She was optimistic because her MIL had just suffered the loss of a dear friend, so she thought that her loss had caused her to reflect on how short life really is and re-evaluate her behavior. She was very hesitant to say the least, but naively thought things might be different. She thought just maybe she had been sincere in her apology for her behavior and that she may have actually misread her “not so sincere sounding” apology for her wrongdoing.
But no sooner had we had the conversation was my friend calling me back fuming! Once again her MIL had proven that a zebra never changes their stripes, even if they sometimes dress up like a lion. She had almost been fooled twice! The great thing about knowing and actually accepting someone for who they’ve shown themselves to be is that, you’ll never again be caught off guard or upset with yourself for thinking things will be different.
To some, it’s better to not know or not acknowledge certain things to avoid getting hurt, or actually having to confront a difficult situation. Which begs the question, would you rather know, or not know the true character of someone you have to deal with on a semi regular, to regular basis?