Piracy is as old as sea travel whether it takes place on the seas themselves or whether the pirates land along waterways. We have a tendency when looking back to romanticize it to some degree through its differing iterations whether we talk about actual historical events and examples of piracy or whether we talk about either those real or those complete figments of imagination in movies about pirates. We see Captain Morgan’s pose and we chuckle and sip our rum. We watch Captain Jack Sparrow do whatever he can to keep the Black Pearle and all the madness that ensues… and we chuckle and sip our rum. We think about One Eyed Willie’s spectacular treasure, yell “Goonies never say die,” and sip our rum. We smile at the Dread Pirate Roberts’ name and act like we didn’t dream of swashbuckling, drinking rum, and sword fighting under the Jolly Roger.
Whatever iteration we are considering, we often forget how incredibly unlikely it was to ever come across another vessel while on the high seas.
Very, very unlikely.
So when you were out on some vessel or another and you happened upon another ship, or another ship happened upon you, there were means by which ships would signal one another to ask for help, warn people away because of illness, whatever. The thing is, no matter how things appeared, you never really knew who you were dealing with unless they let their true colors show by actually flying the flag of their country or affiliation only after the other ship had been lured into a sense of safety by flying false colors.
The same is true of people at times, though, no?
We get into a relationship with someone, whether it is romantic or professional, personal or otherwise, networking or something else. We take the time to build a rapport with them, the give and take of building that relationship up… And our personal ledger is always involved regardless of the type of relationship it is.
Good things add to it, bad things take away from it, and our balance depends entirely on the type of people we choose for the circle we interact with most.
While some people we immediately recognize as life sucking, vampires of happiness, others take their time to worm their way into our world by keeping the ugliest parts of themselves under wraps because it will benefit them in some way or another. It’s in their nature, I suppose, or perhaps they feel deficient in some way and we somehow fulfill some desire or need that eliminates that deficiency for them… for a time. Unlike fast and true friends, those people who see the best in us when we cannot see it in ourselves and those people who hope the best for us when we are lacking, the vampires change at some point and their true colors start shining through. Let me be clear:
I’m not talking about a temporary thing where life gets rough and we find ourselves down in the dumps or unable to return the time and attention of others because of difficult circumstances in our lives that will change.
I’m talking about either the true colors that never change, that seem to get a little better at times but always seems to get back to worse like a cycle of toxicity: good, bad, better, worse, happy-ish, miserable, less miserable, practically unbearable.
The thing about the people who only build relationships that will benefit them is that they have no reason to continue the facade when there is no more benefit to them. None. Nothing you can do will create a benefit for them. Nothing. No matter what you do for them, what you give them, how often you forgive them, nothing will change the fact that their need for you has been filled. You can be a coworker, a friend, a family member, or even their spouse, but once you no longer benefit them, the true colors will show. This is where it gets really hard for us because we want to believe that they are something they are not and that they are capable of being better than they have chosen to be with you. It’s kind of us to believe but what we are believing in is not an honest assessment of the individual in front of us but their potential, nothing more.
Potential is what a body holds by virtue of its position relative to others, to stress, to energy, and to other things. Potential can only be achieved if there is action that moves the body forward from that pinnacle regardless of the amount of potential there is. A boulder high on a cliff may come crashing down when time and weather conspire to slowly crumble the rock face beneath it, but a person is not actually ever forced to change. Life can knock you down but you have to actually choose to get up when it does.
We cannot base our actions, our relationships, our happiness, our health on the potential of another because the only one capable of pushing them beyond the potential of stagnation into action is themselves.
Not you. Never you.
When you are no longer beneficial to someone else’s life, you will see their true colors. There’s a great quote from Maya Angelou that is often spread around in memes:
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
What people writing the memes often miss is the golden wisdom of the rest of that quote:
People know themselves much better than you do. That’s why it’s important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are.
When someone shows you their true colors, regardless of the potential you see in them, it’s essential to learn to accept who they have chosen to be. You can still choose to keep someone in your life whose colors don’t jive with yours, whose morals don’t match yours, who don’t bring the life to you that you bring to them, and who are always draining your ledger when you’re busily filling theirs. That’s fine. That’s your choice. But if you, just remember that you’re showing your true colors when you do as well.
What are the colors you’re showing in your choices?
What are the true colors you want to show in your actions?
Are you showing them or flying false flags?