Have you ever heard the expression - "The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them" that's attributed to Maya Angelou? I have great respect for Maya Angelou but I've often wondered about the context of this expression.
This expression is multi-faceted in that everyone that you meet won't be a part of your life - so the first time you show me who you are, you show me who you are. I may like it or hate it - but it is who you are. If we never have further interactions, good or bad it's fine. If we have additional interactions, depending on what I see, I must rely on God's grace and mercy so that our interactions aren't negative. Interactions may eventually lead to a relationship; this has more of a chance of happening if I view you in a positive light. If we're a family I may not have a choice and may have to deal with you regardless.
In order to know what you're seeing you have to know who you are - some of us only see the good and some only see the bad and then some of us are realistic. Particularly in relationships, people may become jaded and not see a person for who they are even though their actions indicate otherwise.
People change; people change drastically for better or worse; people change incrementally or have total character changes; people change all the time. The person I was 10 years ago is not the person I am today and I would hate for someone to treat me today the way I was yesterday. It's almost like a parent choosing to treat a child like he is 10 years old even though he's 30.
Many people throw this phrase out as a way to be unforgiving or to place themselves on a pedestal.
I guess the real question is, once you believe them, what do you do with this belief?
I believe in grace and mercy; I believe in bestowing it to others because I've been a recipient of it.
Grace is defined as divine love and protection bestowed freely on people; the state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God; an excellence or power granted by God; a special favor.
Mercy is defined as compassionate treatment, especially of those under one's power; clemency; a disposition to be kind and forgiving; something for which to be thankful; a blessing.
In our society, we're not big on forgiveness. We say it but we don't live it. If a person was imprisoned and he is reformed he/she has the hardest time being accepted. We don't focus on rehabilitation and reformation but on disposal.
We are all fallen people, but God can change any life and turn it around for His glory. We've seen it in the Bible in the case of Paul, but I've also seen many instances of this in my life. I know people that used to smoke or drink and now they don't. One particular person attributes it to God drastically removing the desire for cigarettes and since that day he's never smoked. Like Paul, your passions were channeled in the wrong direction. God can and does change lives, even ours. It's up to us to believe this and treat new creations as new creations.
I want my life to be overflowing with grace and mercy towards others even if I'm sometimes hurt by it. I want to be a lightning rod to affect change in others. I want the Light that is in me be a bright light to all. I don't ever want to write people off or have this as a standard way of operating. I believe in all of this that God has and will guide and give me discernment so that I know how to interact with whomever I come in contact with.
As Christians, we are recipients of God's grace and mercy; may we bestow these gifts to others also. When people show you who they are, but allow for the possibility of change.
How often do you grant grace and mercy to others? Pray that God would give you opportunities to increase in this area.