We hear about these stories all the time. You meet someone, a stranger, and everything about them seems ok, but your body is telling you otherwise. That nagging in your head tells you that something is off, and your fight or flight reflex is telling you to get out of the situation. Surely everyone can relate to being in a situation and getting a feeling that you need to leave, immediately. I like to think that my guardian angel is always working overtime, but in my profession I am trained to trust my instincts about people and situations. Now, that does not mean that my tendency to always think the best about people has not led me a little bit down the wrong path sometimes, because it has. I have been called Pollyanna in the past, because I always want to believe that people are who they say they are (sometimes they simply are not, but I digress).
Take my friend Sally, for example (I changed her name, because I told her I would). Sally is a highly educated traveling nurse. She and I worked together years ago with the Razorback Band, and in our travels, got very close dealing with the nonsense that only 60 college aged female halftime performers can bring to the table. When I heard of her happy marriage I was thrilled, but then saddened a couple of years later when I saw she was divorcing. She says that in her travels she got a strange phone call from her then husband, asking her permission to go out to eat with a female colleague. He went on to tell her “We just want to be respectful of you” (Note the pronoun “we” that he used). Going on a hunch, Sally got home and sure enough it was what she thought it was. The happy ending for her is that she is beautiful, intelligent, has moved on, and someone else has to be in a relationship with that man (since cheaters are kind of always cheaters, sadly).
In the counseling profession, any counselor worth their salt (or their K Cup) is trained to pick up on signals from kids that something is “off”. In fact, any person in a profession with other people (teachers, nurses, ministry, police) is typically keyed into patterns of behavior, and getting a “feeling” about someone having good or bad intentions. It’s always a good rule of thumb to trust what your senses are trying to tell you about a person. Appearances mean very little about someone being a good or bad person, you can tell a lot about a person when you see how they treat people, particularly people who cannot do a thing for them. If someone mistreats animals, children, the elderly, or mentally challenged, there is no way that person can be trusted with well, anything else.
Since I work with teenagers, and most recently, a group of single moms, they have some stories to tell about their lives, some good, some bad, and most to just learn from about decisions in the future. In my own life, if I am with my son and get a feeling about someone, I go into crazy protective mama bear mode. My son loves to go to the park, but I am so paranoid about letting him run wherever at the park, partially because of the stories I hear in my office sometimes, and partially because of the stories I read in the paper (the office paper, I stopped taking the paper because those headline stories about children being hurt tear me up). I am usually not too far away from him in public situations, not because I do not trust him, but because I really do not trust a lot of other people with him.
These sweet single moms have story after story to tell about parenting and how they had to trust their instincts to get themselves out of a bad situation, either with a dating partner, or a spouse. I am such an optimistic person that sometimes I let my emotions do the driving, until someone shows me for the last time how truly dishonest and not trustworthy they are. Then when I am finished, I am finished. That goes for friendships, relationships and outfits. Most people are genuinely good, but if you cannot get that nagging voice out of your head and feeling out of your tummy about a person, go with it. Trust the way people make you feel about yourself, and move along accordingly.