Wednesday, May 28 marked the passing of the beloved Maya Angelou. 86 years young, Maya left her mark on society as an author, activist and artist, but mostly as a teacher. She graced our lives with lessons that will live on far beyond her years. She shared her stories of hardships and triumphs with the world by using the power of words. Her bravery to use her voice has left a lasting impact on many peoples’ lives. She will be remembered for not only what she accomplished, but for how she lived her life. Here are some important life lessons from Maya Angelou.
You’re Not Wise Yet; You’re Always En Route
Maya’s upbringing left her traumatized for years. She was abandoned by her parents as a toddler and later reunited with her mother. Her life was anything but easy, yet she grew up to be one of the strongest, most influential women in today’s society. When asked by Oprah Winfrey if she considered herself wise, Maya answered, “I’m en route. I don’t know when I’ll know enough. I know that I know a lot, and I’m grateful for that. I know I know enough to try to live what I know, and that’s a lot, but I still don’t have it all.”
Although many people consider Maya Angelou a very wise woman, she stayed humble and grounded. She recognized her knowledge but never let it get to her head. We will never know it all, and it’s important that we acknowledge that we will be learning new things throughout our lives. Share your knowledge, but also listen to others, because we are all en route to wisdom.
When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them
People have many sides, which can make it difficult to get to know them. Sometimes we try to find the good in people or give them a second chance twenty times over again. The truth is that they know who they are and who they want to be. If they reveal who they really are, believe them. “I’m a mean person” means they know they have done mean things and consider themselves a mean person. People don’t reveal those traits for no reason. It may be in casual conversation, but listen to their words and consider what they say, because at the end of the day, they know themselves better than you do.
Be a Rainbow to Someone Else’s Cloud
“When it looked like the sun wouldn’t shine anymore, God put rainbow in the clouds.” – Rhonda Vincent
Maya sings this song in some of her interviews to explain to people one of her favorite lessons. Everyone has those tough times; everyone has clouds in their lives. Maya taught us that the only thing that breaks those clouds are the rainbows. Be a rainbow to someone else. Be their hope when they can’t see any.
Maya Angelou once said, “I call you rainbows in the clouds from a story in Genesis when it rained on the land so long the people thought it would never end, and God placed a rainbow in the sky to make it ease and give the people hope. This is what you are to your society.” We are the rainbows that make each day a little brighter. So embrace that power and shine light upon those around you. You are a rainbow, and you have power to inspire and give hope to others.
Keep Your Personal Place
Maya was asked about the best advice she ever gave. She said that the best advice she ever gave was that we each have a place within ourselves that we must keep inviolate. It must be kept pristine for yourself – a place where you can say no to violence, no to poor choices and no to other people poorly influencing you. This is the place where you have the strength to say “No, not in my house.” This place is full of purity and cleanliness. Have this place so that nobody has the right to bring you down or treat you poorly. You must not let people invade this place. You have the right to say no when it’s time to say no.
This lesson is easy to say but not so easy to do. We are always told to forgive others and not to hold onto grudges, but sometimes that can be difficult. It’s not easy to forgive someone who has hurt you, so how do you forgive someone who has caused catastrophic harm to your life? Maya taught us that you don’t have to accept those who have hurt you, and that you don’t have to befriend them or acknowledge them, but you do have to forgive them.
Forgiving someone can simply mean being done with it. Forgive and move on; let it go. You are protecting yourself by forgiving and not letting that person harm you anymore. You don’t need someone else to protect you.
“I don’t anoint it with anything. I just forgive it.” – Maya Angelou
Dr. Maya Angelou left us with a life full of examples to learn from. Her most cherished work is not her accomplishments, but the examples and lessons she has shown us. We thank her for helping to guide us in our most aimless times and for showing us how to be good people. Share with us what Maya taught you in the comments below!