We are all on a journey in this life. And each person’s path is unique and tailored to them; influenced by events, thoughts, traumas, people, and culture. The amount of factors is so varied that it is impossible for another person to have the same interpretation and mindset, even if they experience the exact same things in life.
Perhaps it is from the books I’ve been reading lately but I’ve been looking at my personal life journey, specifically how it has been influenced by other people with whom I have met or interacted: friends, family, and even bullies.
Recently, I had a discussion with an old friend of mine. We talked of our old group of friends from high school and how grateful we were that we had stayed close through the years. After this conversation, I thought of how strange it was that friendships or relationships sometimes end. At times I thought I would always be close to someone only to find that is not the case and it seems hard to reconnect with them. I suppose it is from life changes and a sense of “moving on” that creates that feeling, because it was a genuine and sincere relationship at that time.
This isn’t always the case, of course. Others were simply a phone call away and it was like picking up where we left off. And after some consideration, I now see that the relationships that have had the biggest personal impact on me are also the ones that have been easier to maintain or rekindle–and I say bigger impact on a spiritual or soul-level.
This realization led me to define them in one of three different categories:
- Givers – these are people that give us something; an experience or relationship, something we need or crave that adds to our journey.
- Takers – these people take something away from us that we either don’t want or need, or that doesn’t serve us anymore.
- Passengers – these are people that are along for the ride. They experience things and events with us and are as equally impacted as we are.
For those of you who are fans of Lord of the Rings, I have an example of these from Frodo’s adventure.
- The Giver is Bilbo. He gave Frodo a place to live and started the journey by also giving him the ring, and a purpose.
- The Taker is Boromir. Although he tried to literally take the ring, he also took Frodo’s naïveté concerning the quest.
- The Passenger is Sam. He went with Frodo and helped him destroy the ring, while also learning about himself.
It can be easy to think of these categories as negative, especially viewed through Frodo’s eyes. Though it may seem that way or our experience with a person involved hurt feelings, I like to see this as good for our progress and improvement. I will show you what I mean by giving you an example of each from my life.
I grew on a farm located in rural southern Idaho, on the outskirts of a small town. I entered grade school when I turned five, but I soon encountered an inward resistance to the culture that idolized hunting and sports. (I’m not against anyone who enjoys these things, it’s just not for me.) There was a strong social pressure to fit in, even at such a young age. I didn’t fully realize it, but I knew I didn’t like it. And it was hard to resist alone. That’s when I met my childhood friend and he soon became a passenger. We both took recess in a different direction from the other kids, choosing to get lost in our own imaginative world rather than play football or basketball. As a result, over time both of us ended up being bullied and became two social outcasts. An ironic twist is that sometimes the games we came up with and played would then be adopted by the other kids. I am grateful for my fellow passenger, one who could support me on my journey without realizing it and allowing me to become more of who I am today.
My family moved from Idaho to southern Utah just when I got into high school. It took a while for me to break out of my shyness during that tough transition, but there was one person who helped me. After our first meeting I instantly felt drawn to her and we started a relationship that didn’t last long. I was initially happy at the end because I couldn’t take the fighting, or her strong personality that matched her fiery red hair. I blamed her, but deep down I started to feel something that was hidden behind the surface of my own psyche and that continued to plague me through more relationships after that: a feeling of unworthiness. As a giver in my life, she gave me my first kiss. In addition to giving me that special moment, she also gave me an inner spark that led to my own self-love. And in spite of the torment I felt back then, I am now grateful for our tension-filled relationship.
After high school and a two-year church mission, I met my first wife. It was a whirlwind romance, moving so quick I soon found myself married before I was ready for it. But it was rocky. I admit that I was very immature when it came to relationships and especially marriage. Ultimately it led to a divorce after about 18 months. It was one of the biggest life-changing events of my life. Remember how I struggled with unworthiness? Well, that was the theme of my divorce. And though it took me years to recover, I look back at my ex-wife with love and respect. She was my biggest taker. After the divorce, a lot of my unanswered questions and insecurities simply didn’t bother me anymore. I suddenly had a clear vision of what I wanted out of life and the passion to go for it. When she left, she took with her that part of me that I had been anxious to shed, and I was all the better for it. And I thank her every day now for her strength and courage.
I’d also like to mention my current wife here. Although I have specific examples of a person in my life from each of the categories, my wife sits comfortably in all three. There are times where she gives, takes, and rides along my journey as I continue to evolve. That is the hallmark of a good life partner. What could be more powerful than someone who can give, take, and stick around through all the tough emotional times?
So can you identify any people in your life that fit these categories? I’m not claiming that this list is complete. Perhaps you can find more definitions or categories for your special relationships. And how about those that may have been negative, hurtful, or fleeting? Once time has healed the wounds, can you look back with a thankful eye to what they did for you?
I once had a run-in with a stranger that I have never been able to forget to this day. I’ve never seen him since, but he was the first person in my life to ever physically assault me. I’m still not sure what category to put him in, but I do know he had a big impact on me–maybe one day, when I’m ready for the lesson, it will make itself known.
The challenge here is to find out how much you have changed from the people in your life, and to no longer judge them as “good” or “bad,” but simply contributors to your own epic life adventure.