When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.*
I hate this feeling.
A car has blindsided me. Sidled up and crashed into me, shaking me awake.
Okay, in reality, I’m steering safely through an intersection, blinkers blinking, windshield wipers wiping.
But it feels like I’ve been blindsided. Not bumped by a tailgater. Not rammed into the car in front of me. Not even T-boned at a four-way stop. Blindly slammed-into from out of nowhere. My knuckles are white on the steering wheel.
I mentally sift through the past few months. If my life was a movie, picture a montage of flashbacks. With a very serious song in the background. Like Phantom of the Opera.
Basically, I’m realizing that I have, once again, misread a person. In fact, this whole month has been a pattern of misreading people. I thought I finally had a grasp of who someone was and then BOOM. I’m grossly mistaken.
“That’s the naïveté in you,” a friend told me. “You expect the best from people.”
This is not an incorrect assessment. A guy suggests he and I go for coffee? I assume he’s being friendly and not harboring any ulterior motives. A person offloads their struggles to me, I offer to help without considering if they’re being emotionally manipulative. Someone tells me that everything is going to be okay, I take their word for it because, honestly, why would they lie?
Okay. I could also totally pull examples of me being appropriately guarded in social interactions. I’m not dumb.
But recently, I’ve been feeling blindsided by people showing me their true colors. Like, what, I thought I had them figured out.
My Pentecostal friends talk about the gift of discernment. This is not a gift I have.
When I think of how often I expect the best from people, I’m reminded of Psalm 146:3:
“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.”
What this means to me is that, although Jesus wants us to love one another, we shouldn’t put all our trust in each other—in fallible human beings. In fact, a commentary on Bible Study Tools suggests that it’s actually not loving to do this:
“Live as to deserve their trust, but do not burden them with your trust.”**
It’s a burden, in fact, to count on people to be who you hope them to be. And it puts you in an emotionally vulnerable place, as I’ve realized.
This isn’t to say that this feeling of being blindsided as I drive through the rain, fighting hot tears, can be salvaged by simply reminding myself that nobody’s perfect. What my friend did was wrong and it breaks my heart. The ‘true colors’ I’ve seen this past month have seemed so wildly out of character that I’m left not knowing what to believe.
“You’re allowed to feel sad,” my friend told me. “You’re allowed to feel betrayed and disappointed. It’s justified.”
I know. I mean, we OUGHT to be able to trust each other. Or, at the least, we ought to be able to honestly represent our true character to others so that they can calculate our character and make accurate judgments and vice versa. Relationships should be transparent and authentic.
But because that’s not the case, there should be this element of humility that goes with not being naïve with people. It doesn’t just mean not putting your trust in a person, but it also means not fully trusting your own judgement of their character. Leave room for some misunderstanding because, as I’m learning, that happens.
So the next time I catch myself expecting the best from someone, I can remind myself of what the Bible teaches in Psalm 146:3. And whenever I feel blindsided, disappointed, betrayed, shocked—I can take comfort in the fact that I can put my trust in a perfect God. Through that, my friends and acquaintances are liberated from my expectations of them. And to me, I feel like this is one of the best ways that I can lovingly relate to them.
*Quote by Maya Angelou
**Bible Study Tools link here