You Changed My Life
“You changed my life” is one of the most powerful things we can say to another person. “I love you” might be the one thing more powerful.
I remember the people who have changed my life.
Some of them were persistent even when I doubted my life could change. They set out to help me grow and change in ways I did not always see for myself.
Other people changed my life in unexpected ways. They did not necessarily set out to help me grow. Some were people who competed with me. We challenged each other and brought out the best in both of us.
I will never forget one woman who helped me learn to read. She was our neighbor, a retired teacher who my parents asked to take care of me before I started school. She taught me letters and colors and words as well as helping me play with my toy trucks on the sofa.
Her gift of reading changed my life.
The day I finished law school I visited her and showed her my diploma.
All of us know people who have changed our lives. They include friends and family, teachers and coaches, people we love and people with whom we compete. Our lives would be different if they had not changed them.
Some of them we know personally and they change our lives while looking us in the eye. Each of us lives surrounded by people who help us discover and become our deeper selves. They may ask us questions which prompt our thinking or help us see ourselves in new ways.
Changing the lives of people around us can be a spiritual practice. So can recognizing the people who change our lives.
Who are the people who have changed your life?
People Who Changed My Life Even When We Never Met
There are people who have changed my life even though we never met.
The largest group of people I have not met who changed my life are those who wrote what I have read.
I have a long list of authors who have changed my life through their words. Our neighbor who helped me learn to read started opening doors to other worlds for me. As I have gone through life stumbling into ideas and experiences which were new to me I have read about them.
Whether it was history and politics or spiritual life, people who wrote books I read changed my life.
When I was first learning about contemplative practices a friend of mine suggested I look into Benedictine spirituality. She thought, since many of the practices I was exploring came from Benedictines, it might be a good place to start.
I began reading about Benedictines. Her suggestion, along with the writers of all those books, changed my life.
In addition to the writers whose words I read, other people were examples who still inspire me.
I have never met Mother Teresa or Thomas Merton, Thich Nhãt Hanh or Hildegard of Bingen, Mister Rogers or Malala. Each of them, and many more people, have changed my life even though we never met.
Gratitude for Those Who Changed My Life
My first step in being grateful for people who changed my life is to take time to remember them. As I reflect on my experiences I often begin to see people in a new light.
I become more accepting of people who were not necessarily my favorites when I was with them. It might even have been how I behaved which sparked their actions. Taking time to listen and remember helps me have a new perspective.
It helps me to reflect on how they changed my life as specifically as I can.
The next step for me is, if I can still contact them, honestly expressing my gratitude to them directly. I believe in emailing or calling to tell them how they changed my life and how I am grateful.
My spiritual practice is not about reconciling or making amends, but about remembering.
Telling someone “You changed my life” is one of the most powerful things you can say to them.
It is important for me to be carefully honest without expectations. My intention is to remember and be grateful for their gift to me, not get something more from them.
There are other people to whom I am grateful I am not able to contact. They may be those people I have never met in person.
I still begin by taking time to remember. As I reflect on the specifics of how they changed my life I look for other people whose lives they might change.
Telling someone “This changed my life” is still pretty powerful.
You Changed My Life and It Continues to Change
Many of us are used to taking credit for the good things in our lives and blaming the rest on other people.
We are grateful to the people who inspire us to grow and change each day when we remember to be. It is a spiritual practice for us to take time to remember and express our gratitude.
It is not an easy thing for me to thank people who changed my life. I enjoy taking credit for changing my own life. The fact is, though, other people inspire me to change my life every day.
The significant thing about changing my life is not who gets the credit for doing it.
Spiritual life is about more than expressing our gratitude. I pay attention to who and what has changed my life to help it keep changing.
The people who help me change my life today build on the foundation of those who changed my life before.
How can I reflect and recognize who changed my life today?
When will I express my gratitude for people who changed my life this week?
[Image by mrsdkrebs]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.