“When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” – Dr. Maya Angelou
I’ve always found this quote by Dr. Angelou particularly profound. Primarily because people often tell you who they are regardless of how inaccurate and misaligned their words are with their actions. Detailed descriptions of being a responsible parent, loving spouse or forgiving friend roll from their lips in an attempt to disguise the reality we all face. Most are traveling this journey hoping to encounter enlightenment and clarity along the way. Then someone comes along intending to meet us, engage us, understand us and we struggle to articulate the truth of who we are in a few words or phrases. Possibly because we’re complex beings–so much more than a word or phrase. Or maybe it’s because we have no idea how to fill the space between our mouths and their ears. We know what we’ve been through but not necessarily the result of who we’ve become because of it. We can retell instances of love, hurt, abandonment, disregard, etc. while not recognizing how those emotional experiences have crafted us into perfectly imperfect beings. It’s true–we don’t quite know who we are yet.
A man’s actions identify who he is today while his words reveal who he aspires to one day be
Enter Dr. Angelou’s prophetic and profound statement. It subtly juxtaposes the current-ness of actions with the future-ness of words. She rightfully guides us to believe what our eyes witness regardless of what our ears hear. Even as one’s words speak a desire to be better, we can’t expect a person to be any more or less than who they are at this moment. I’ve had people tell me they’re working through issues to overcome a past they’d rather deny. However, the truth was while their words demonstrated a desire to progress, their actions were stagnant. They knew who and how they aimed to be but weren’t ready to have actions and words align. In the end, actions spoke louder than words.
An Imperfect Being…
There’s another imperative to Dr. Angelou’s succinct, yet thought-provoking statement. She admonishes us to embrace the humanness of others and ourselves. Regardless of whether it’s a word or action, life is far from simple. We enjoy making assumptions and filling in the proverbial blanks but timing plays a critical role in a person’s evolution and growth. While we want people to live by our rules and be fully realized when we say it’s time, that’s not how this thing works. Mother Maya is telling us to believe the truth of what we see from those around us. Respect their vulnerability and emotional nakedness even when they think they’re fully clothed. Never forget, we’re all stumbling somewhere on the road between Being and Becoming.
In Remembrance of Dr. Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)
Her strength, courage and wisdom will always be an inspiration.
May she rest in peace