Even with all of the life lessons she’s learned, not even Oprah is immune to having a bad relationship. Many years ago, she was talking to Dr. Maya Angelou about a relationship wherein -- as she shares in this clip from "Oprah's Lifeclass" -- she spent a lot of time waiting by the phone for a call that rarely came.
Dr. Angelou's response became one of Oprah's favorite life lessons to date. The lesson? "When people show you who they are, believe them."
“When a person says to you, ‘I’m selfish,’ or ‘I’m mean’ or ‘I am unkind,’ believe them,” Oprah says in the clip. “They know themselves much better than you do.”
At the time of the relationship discussion, Oprah was telling Dr. Angelou about how she was being let down by the man she was dating. Oprah says Dr. Angelou didn’t understand her frustration. Says Oprah, “[Dr. Angelou] was saying to me, ‘Why are you blaming the other person? He showed you who he was.'"
That moment changed Oprah’s outlook. She recalls, “When you look back on bad relationships... For myself, [it was] sitting in a window waiting for him to show up, not even getting on the phone because I was afraid that if it was busy for one second that he would call and I would miss the call, not taking out the garbage on the weekends because I might be out the moment that he called, not running the bath water because he might call while I’m running the bath water… When you look at that process of waiting on somebody who has told you they were... going to be there for you and they were not, they are showing you in that moment exactly who they are.”
Oprah remembers that Dr. Angelou also asked her, “My dear, why must you be shown 29 times before you can see who they really are? Why can’t you get it the first time?”
After that, Oprah amended the life lesson. “The adjunct to that is, ‘When people show you who they are, believe them the first time,'" she says.