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  • Writer's pictureTrish Bentley

Believe What People Tell You

New Year’s resolution posts are a standard issue right now. Tiz the season to want to become healthier, smarter, more productive and well, kinder and more generous to those in need. Gyms are packed, google is flooded with search words such as “balance” and “learn to meditate”, and the world around us seems for a moment to be paralyzed by the trauma of 2016.

I realize that for me, along with my goals of finishing projects, swearing less and being more present, there is one thing that keeps coming up.

Maya Angelou once said:

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

This quote has traveled with me, humming in the background of single-hood, friendships, parenthood and now marriage. I’ve never been under the impression that Angelou meant for the quote to only be taken one way, and recently this was made even more clear to me.

My husband and I had endured what I call a You Made Me Feel Like This conversation and in it, it was communicated that I had been harsh. So what did I do? I used the sensitivity card. Yes, because if you think I’m harsh, you must be sensitive.

Well, after some time to calm down, I was again reminded of this quote, but it spoke to me in a different way.

Believe What People Tell You.

Was it possible that I had been harsh? If you’ve ever been in a romantic relationship, then yes, becoming harsh in a moment of fight or flight is possible. I am self-aware and humble enough to know this, even though admitting it soon after makes my skin ache.

It got me thinking: what if I believed EVERYTHING he ever said to me? Every fight or disagreement, I would look at him, close my mouth and nod my head, allowing his observation to soak into the part of my brain reserved for learning and acquiring social and emotional skills. I’d walk away without the need to explain or express or justify–my goal would be to understand how I made HIM feel and how I could be better.

What if my single friends believed men when men told them: I’m unavailable? What if we believe our kids when they say: I don’t want to go to the birthday party? What if when our parents tell us they are proud of us, we believe them. Because listening and believing are two completely different skills. And some people are really great listeners but no so great at application, especially when it comes time for self-reflection.

But here’s the thing: we’re all human. And this means that it would be impossible for me to sit through every conversation with the man I parent and cohabitate with, being silent and totally off-guard for the purpose of proper emotional evolution. And sometimes we reject the notion that we’ve hurt someone’s feelings because well, we really didn’t mean to do so. And our children? Well, they should go to the birthday party because, once they get over whatever it is that troubles them, they’ll have the time of their life. Single ladies? It’s mutha-flipping hard out there. People change their minds all the time, including men.

So even though we can’t believe all of the time, we can certainly try our best. I wouldn’t tell my kids to believe everything people tell them as there are limits to the amount we can learn from those around us. But focusing more on believing those we love rather than trying to change their mind puts us in the direction of happiness. Everywhere. Every time.

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