by Wally Moran
Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Did you ever meet a really insecure kid who, whenever he spoke, tried to make himself look better? Someone who constantly tried way too hard to be your friend? Who lacked self confidence and overcompensated for it? They’re a most annoying breed, aren’t they?
Unfortunately, I was one of those kids. If I was with John, I tried to be the kind of person John liked. If I was hanging out with Peter, I adopted Peter’s likes, dislikes and habits. As a result, I never had any true friends, and never learned who I was.
Worse, in my quest to be likable I was susceptible to every sort of peer pressure. It was only the strong values my parents gave me — my Dad was a policeman — that kept me from getting into a really bad crowd and getting into trouble.
During my last year in high school, I started to spend time with a guy named Glen. I didn’t know him well, but we had gone to the same schools. I had admired his demeanor over the years. Over a period of several months, we became close friends.
I continued my habit of emulating the person I was with, seeking to be more “Glen” than Glen was. It had to be very aggravating, but despite this, the friendship between Glen and I grew.
Finally, one day more than a year after we had become good friends, Glen became exasperated. He said, “Wally, I like you. You don’t have to be anyone else, you can be yourself.”
That simple statement rocked me to the soles of my feet. It was like the clouds in my life were blown away and the sun could shine down on my life. I could be just me…and someone liked me.
Other than my parents saying “I love you,” it was the single most important thing that anyone had ever said to me. I was free to be myself without fear of rejection. If you have never experienced it, that is real freedom.
About two years ago I recalled this story to Glen. He had never known the effect his words had on me. He didn’t realize that his friendship and his honesty were the catalyst for a change in me that has continued to this day, 25 years later.
He didn’t say those words to achieve a change in me, he said them because he was my friend and was being honest. There is a saying that a friend sees who you are, but likes you anyway. That’s Glen. He likes me anyway.
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 2.