It’s a powerful thing when a friend tells you of the profound impact you’ve had on his life.
Not that this is a common occurrence in my life by any means, but this did happen to me recently. It was a soft, genuine moment between friends. It was toward the end of the conversation and it snuck up on me; as if it was the surprise ending to everything he’d been talking about, but was also the unavoidable outcome the entire time. Somehow, his humble admittance of my influence seemed to tie in everything we’d been talking about. It was startling and I was a bit embarrassed.
My first instinct was to shrug it off, deny it, or say something to the effect of, “No, no. That had nothing to do with me,” or “Please. You were that (insert adjective here) before we even met.” But that would only belittle the power of the compliment and undermine the true nature of his humility in bringing it up in the first place.
So I paused, and skipped that instinct and moved onto number 2: deflection and/or reciprocation. I think I said something like, “Yeah, well maybe…but you’ve had this type of effect on my life…” which, while completely true and he has had a profoundly impactful (not a word), life-changing influence on who I am today, probably wasn’t the best time to bring that up. In fact, in me reciprocating his sentiments, it (again) only served to lessen the true originality, careful timing, and intimate nature of his initial declaration.
As soon as I finished my speech on what a big impact he’d had on my life, I grimaced. I knew immediately that his comments meant much more and that mine sounded more like an obligatory rambling of insincere, trite statements. Even though mine came from as genuine a place as his did, his weren’t prompted.
So what is this post about? Well, it started about me realizing what a rare moment this was, and that it’s probably a good thing to tell your friends more often how much you care about them. And not only “care”, because I think I do a pretty good job of being intentional with telling my friends I love them. But the original takeaway of this post was probably: tell your friends and family how influential they’ve been on you personally. Tell them how much you love them, and be specific as to how they’ve changed you as a person, how they’ve altered your path and molded your worldview.
But I think there’s a new point to all of this, or at least, a slightly altered one: Be the first, to tell your friends and family these things. Not to win, not to beat them, and not to look better than anyone else. Do this because impromptu, personal, intentional, life-pausing, meaningful conversations initiated out of the blue about how influential someone has been in your life are some of the most honest, real, and rare conversations that take place today.
I know there are more important things to do, and much more important things going on in the world today. I certainly don’t want to understate their importance, but I just know this is something that is often overlooked by most people, and it’s something that can be so life-changing and life-giving¹, that it’s hard for me to understand why this isn’t a more prominent part of our everyday conversations.
Ever since my friend caught me so offguard with those comments, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Why is that? Certainly not because I just like relishing in how great I am (trust me, not the case), but more so because I was so overwhelmed and impressed with his ability to speak to something that people rarely mention: how much someone means to you.
If you’re as lucky as me, you have more than a few great people in your life who you’ve allowed to help influence the person you are today. It takes time, and it’s not always easy, but it’s usually worth it to let someone you look up to change the person you are–or at the very least, impact the way you see the world.
2011 went by quickly…scary quickly. I feel like I got engaged two weeks ago, but it (apparently) was in April.Wow. Point being, it’s very easy to say, “That stuff sounds good, I’d love to do it, I’ll do it next week/month/year/whatever.” Try to do it soon if you can. It gets easier and easier to put things off, and time comes at you faster and faster the older you get.
And if you feel like you don’t really know anyone well enough to have this conversation with, you’re not alone. It’s tough to be vulnerable with people, especially if you’ve recently found yourself with a new job, in a new town, at a new school, et al. But a bit of advice that a wise man gave me years ago: Find the people you look up to, and cling to them. Maybe it’s asking someone out to coffee, or even inviting yourself to a party, or something that may be a bit awkward at first. Putting yourself out there can suck sometimes. It’s awkward, difficult, and often doesn’t pay off very well. But when it does, it seems like it’s always worth it because the payoff can be so overwhelmingly wonderful.
(That, my friends, was a digression.)
Getting back to the point of all this, I know I need to be more assertive and intentional with all of this, but it seems like no matter what I do, life gets in the way. What’s the answer? Let’s quit all of our jobs and live in a house where all we do is hangout, run a community garden, and love on each other? Hmmm…while that may sound like the obvious answer to some, it may be a little creepy and cult-like. I’m thinking the answer may be even simpler than that.
Maybe we should just go out on a limb more often, tell people what we’re thinking more often², and not be so afraid to get closer to other people. Again, that’s not always easy, but I’ve found the more I’m living life like that, the more I’m proud of the live I’m leading.
Thanks for the wake up call, Tyler.
¹ Thank you, Janie Reed.
² The good stuff at least.
Originally posted on January 3, 2012