I made my friend cry. She’s tough as nails, so it caught me off guard. I had written a short note to tell her how she had impacted my life, a part of a larger gift from many women influenced by this amazing leader’s ministry. She told me the tears weren’t out of sadness, but because she hadn’t known she’d made a difference in my life and was grateful I’d told her.
I’ve thought a lot about her statement. How could she not know the huge and positive impact she’s had on my life?
Five years ago, she led a study group that I was a part of, and even though we had just met, she had sensed that I was struggling with my identity. Reflecting back on the woman I was then, I can see that she was right. My emotions had clouded my perspective and, when I looked at myself in the mirror, I didn’t see the woman God had lovingly created in His image. Instead, I saw the disappointment I was to others, the mistakes I had made in the past, the many things I could have been but was not. Intellectually, I knew that God made me and loved me, but I didn’t know how to move that belief from my head into my heart. But this woman did. The second time the group met, she spontaneously created a homework assignment just for me. Handing me a stack of twenty bright pink post-it notes, she said, “On each one of these, write one thing that is good about you. Then stick them on your mirror.”
I did the assignment even though I thought it was silly and wouldn’t be helpful. I was surprised, actually, that it wasn’t really that difficult to come up with twenty good things about myself. I stuck the notes around the frame of my bathroom mirror and kept them there until the next group meeting, where I proudly told her I had done what she asked. She handed me a stack of fifty more post-its. “Do it again,” she said.
This time I couldn’t hide my incredulity, but I did the assignment—I can be tough as nails, too. And again, I was surprised that it wasn’t that difficult to come up with fifty more things that are good about me. On the first day, I wrote about fifteen, all I could come up with. But each day after that, I’d think of another good thing or two about me and I’d grab my Sharpie and write it on a pink note before sticking it with the growing pink frame of post-its on my mirror. As the week went on, these notes began to crowd in toward my reflection in the mirror, and a transformation began to take place as I realized how uniquely crafted I am by the Creator of everything. The last pink note I wrote before the next group meeting was this: I’m beginning to like me.
So when my friend told me she hadn’t realized she’d made a difference in my life through this homework assignment, I was truly surprised. I know in my bones that this assignment changed me, and I’m grateful for her obedience to the prodding of the Holy Spirit on that day when she assigned it to me. How is it that she couldn’t have known what she’d done for me?
I’ve come to realize that she didn’t know because I never told her. To be honest, I don’t even know myself when I realized the impact of it. Maybe it wasn’t until I sat down long enough to write the short note for her gift. I’m glad I told her, though, and the telling has taught me two important things. First, my friend may be tough as nails, but she’s fragile, too. I’m honored that she let me see some of the soft part of her. It has been like an unspoken permission to let her see my own soft parts—my fears, my anxiety, maybe even my tears some day. Our friendship can only deepen from this new knowledge about each other.
Second, I learned that I need to mark the moments in my future when I recognize the impact someone has had on my life. I have those realizations once in a while, usually during the rare early morning shower before the five other people in my home awaken. When I have these moments, I feel my love for these people in my life, and I tell God how grateful I am that He placed them in my life. But I rarely tell that to the people. The moment passes as my kids awaken and the loud chaos of my day begins. I’ve learned that I need to make it a top priority to tell each of these people what they’ve done for me. Because now I understand that they don’t know it unless I do tell them. And maybe they need a good cry, too.