My favorite part of any conversation, on air or off, is when someone has a revelatory moment and utters these words: “I never thought of it that way before.”

Case in point: Jo Ann Compton, whose daughter Laurie Ann was murdered in 1988. For the next ten years, this grieving mother didn’t change a single thing in her daughter’s room; a decade later, she was mourning her death as though she’d just passed away. Her plan was to share Laurie Ann’s story on the Oprah show—and then go home and kill herself.

But when Jo Ann came on, Dr. Phil, in one awe-inspiring instant, changed everything. He said to her, “Your daughter lived 18 vibrant and wonderful years, yet you’re focusing on the day of her death rather than celebrating the event of her life.” I could see Jo Ann process that thought, and then the lightbulb moment: “I never thought of it that way before!” she cried.

Getting people to be open to seeing things differently has been my life’s work.

I love when it happens to me, too.

oprah prison mothers
Photo: Harpo Inc.

I once interviewed a group of women who were in prison for killing their children. When we finished, one of the inmates said, “You’re the first person that’s come in here and talked to us like we were normal women, not just murderers. How could you do that?”

My response: “I could feel your pain. And I recognized that all pain is the same; we just choose different ways to release it. This is what you chose to do with yours. You killed your children.”

Unspeakable, the depths of that crime. The horror. The shame. But my ability to set aside my preconceived notions and see those women as hurting human beings gone wrong—not “monsters of evil,” as some had been labeled in the press—changed the way I viewed everyone. I started to see that everybody’s just doing the best they know how at any given time, and that even when they know better but can’t do better, they often wish they could.

What if you were willing to see your whole life differently—from the 35,000-foot view? What if you could see everything you’ve been through, everything you’ve stood up to, every time you’ve fallen and rebounded, every curve ball you were thrown and caught? Every time you were disappointed and didn’t stoop to despair. Every victory, every chance. And appreciate the fact that you’re still here, still standing, still striving for a better life.

I hope you give yourself a round of applause for making it this far. And then see yourself as a part of the whole of this planet.

What gifts have you to offer?

What was your reason for coming?

What I know for sure: The answers keep unfolding as your life expands, if you’re willing to see things for what they are—and what they can be.


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