Whether we realise it or not, we all have influence on others. Even the most ‘insignificant’ person will influence their family and friends in ways they may not always recognise. When we stop and consider who we are, we will all realise the influence of others on our lives: parents, siblings, family, teachers, friends, work colleagues and neighbours, to name just a few. The media and celebrities may also have a great influence on us, shaping our tastes in many things – for good and for bad. My thoughts today on influence have been influenced by Nicky Gumbel’s comments in his Bible commentary, for example!
Most of us feel our influence is not very great, but as the African proverb reminds us, ‘if you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito’!
I once did spend the night with a mosquito, in a hotel room in the Loire valley in France, and not only did its persistent buzzing frequently startle me from slumber but my body testified to its influence the next day with a series of very itchy bites!
Influence can be for good or for evil and we influence others through our words and our lifestyles.
Our words can either build people up or tear people down (see James 3:9-12). A gentle word can defuse tense and volatile situations (Prov 15:1). Wise words are gracious and calm, not filled with recrimination, blame and anger. (Eccl 8:17, Eccl 10:12) We can help or hinder people through our words and if we use wise words, our influence can shape how many people live.
God is looking for consistency between what we say (and how we say it – speaking the truth in love) and what we do. Our faith should influence how we live – trusting God, working hard, making the most of every opportunity, being honest, refusing to let anxiety cripple us. (Eccl 11:10) Our faith should make us generous towards others so that we can be a blessing to them. (Eccl 11:1-2, The Message)
Influence can last beyond our lifetime – so let’s ensure our influence is a godly one!