Believe them the first time.

The older I get, the more I believe the truth in Maya Angelou's words:

When someone shows you who they are, 
believe them the first time. 

I can recall situations in which I wish I had paid more attention to things said and done on previous occasions because it would have undoubtedly led to less shock and awe when things went down in a blaze of glory later.  When you notice people treating others a certain way, do not be surprised when they treat you the same way later.  I'm not sure why we expect things to be different.  I guess we all assume we're special or deserve better treatment.

A friend of mine was mistreated by her employer and left the company on negative terms.  Another friend of mine went to work for the same management team several years later and believed that things would be different.  Unfortunately, it wasn't long before the second friend found herself in the same situation as the first friend.  Had the second friend recognized the warning signs of a toxic work environment earlier on, perhaps she could have saved herself some heartache.

We must always remember that people will do what people will do, and sometimes things aren't as bad (or as good) as they seem.  I've been let down by people close to me and it hurts.  I've been taken off guard by actions and words and have tasted bitterness in situations.  I have fussed and fumed and stewed over wrongs committed and have, in the words of my 4 year old, threatened to "tear lives" over situations.  

But, (and this is a really big and important but), I also must remain painfully aware that I have a list of faults and failures like everyone else, and I want to extend the same amount grace I'd like to receive from others.  I want heaping amounts of grace from those I've failed, so I must swallow my hurt and pride sometimes and do my best to extend it to others.  It's not always easy, but it always, always, always ends up being the best way to deal with situations.

I don't want to be judged on every. single. time. I've failed someone with my words, decisions, and actions.  I can almost always justify my reasons (because no one likes to admit that they were just being despicable and sinful), but that doesn't meant they were good and right reasons at the moment--which means that, most likely, those who have failed and offended us probably had their justifiable reasons as well.

Doesn't make it good, doesn't make it right, but at least we're all in good company, right?      

I also don't want to live in a world of constant speculation and suspicion.  Everyone is not out to get me, and sometimes people just make stupid choices and do stupid things.  Very few of us have time to sit around and cook up ways to make others miserable.

Let's choose to swallow our righteousness and hurt feelings.  Let's choose to extend grace.  Let's choose to get off our high horses and get low and small in our humility.  Let's begin anew and do our best to treat others the way we want to be treated.

We cannot change the past, but we can work on the present and future. 

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