“If someone shows you who they are, believe them.” – Maya Angelou
There’s a Native American legend that goes like this.
A young boy started to go up to the top of a mountain in search of his vision. As he climbed the mountain, the air got cooler and he came upon a snake laying in the path. The snake was shivering, and said to the boy, “Please help me. I can’t move. I am so cold that I can’t make it any further down the mountain.”
The boy said to the snake, “No! You’re a snake. If I pick you up, you’ll bite me!” The snake replied, “I promise I won’t bite you if you’ll only pick me up and help get me down the mountain.”
So the young boy picked up the snake, put him in his shirt, and continued climbing to the top of the mountain in search of his vision. When he got back down to the bottom of the mountain, he reached in, took out the snake, and the snake bit the young boy.
The boy said to the snake “You bit me! You said that if I helped you, you wouldn’t bite me!”
The snake replied, “but you knew what I was when you picked me up!”
Sound familiar? I’ve definitely dealt with a few snakes in my time. I used to try to handle them – you know, manage their triggers, make them comfortable, keep them happy in an effort to keep the peace. But my ‘magnanimity’ usually cost me. If you need a silver lining though, here it is: those puncture wounds? They leave a mark and a deep impression on the psyche that’s hard to shake, and thank goodness for it because a few good bites have turned my ass around and changed my behavior. You see, I’m an optimist by nature so I tend to give people second, third and, occasionally, fourth chances. But I’ve come to realize that somewhere between giving someone the benefit of the doubt for human screw-ups and picking up the viper that will bite you every single time lies the sweet spot of dignified self-preservation.
These days I trust my gut, and I don’t try to talk myself into a prettier story about someone when they show me who they are the first time. I’ve learned how to interact and be polite and pleasant, but I do it from just outside the strike zone. Most of the time, anyway.
Here’s one of my favorite Tyler Perry clips. His personal story is quite interesting. He’s hilarious when in character as Madea. Maybe I just like Madea because the deep South is in my DNA and she feels familiar to me. Whatever the reason, here’s Madea giving relationship advice. There’s so much amusingly-wrapped truth packed into this short clip, especially the analogy about how people in our lives are like parts of a tree. Enjoy.