Maya Angelou says, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”
There is much wisdom in this statement. I can hear the objections already, however. What about forgiveness? What about grace? Can’t people change? Yes, there is room in the world for forgiveness, grace, and the transformation of people. People do sometimes change, and if they do, that change will show in their behavior. Great discernment is required here. As for forgiveness and grace, forgiving a person does not mean staying in a toxic relationship with her or him.
So why do I have a picture of Sawyer from Lost here? Because Sawyer showed everyone who he was right up front. He was a con man interested in his own self-benefit. While many people, primarily Kate, tried to convince Sawyer to change, or reveal his “hidden” self, he remained who he was for many seasons. Towards the end of the show he did begin a healthy, vulnerable relationship with Juliet, but all the way he was deceiving the community they lived within in order to protect himself and his friends. So did Sawyer change?
Forgiveness and grace are beautiful things. And every relationship requires a healthy dose of both to survive. But that doesn’t detract from Angelou’s advice. People do show us, through their actions, who they truly are. Evaluate that information and then decide what kind of relationship you want with that person.