Recently, a friend on Facebook shared this true story that is powerful, thought-provoking, inspiring, challenging, and fits perfectly with the purpose of my blog.
I went to the store to buy ammunition for my airsoft gun. When I reached the aisle that carried airsoft guns and supplies, there was a man standing there looking at the various guns that you could buy. He asked me a few questions, and we started talking about gun rights here in the U.S. As soon as I had finished giving him my opinion on the matter, he turned to me and said, “Wow, how old are you?” I replied, “I’m 16.” He looked at me for several seconds without saying anything, then he proceeded to say, “There’s no way you can be 16 and speak that eloquently and actually know what you’re talking about.” I was slightly taken aback, in a pleasant way, but nevertheless I had difficulty thinking of how to reply other than with a “Thank you.” He went on to tell me that he was a lawyer that worked for a huge law firm in my hometown…. He told me that he had never met a person my age that could communicate their stand on a certain issue with the same level of understanding and professionalism that I had when I spoke to him. I thanked him multiple times, and the last thing he asked me was, “Where do you go to school?” I said, “I’m home-schooled actually.” Again, he looked at me for several seconds and said, “If homeschooling produces such well-educated, polite, and professional students, then I am absolutely going to home-school my children.” It was the ultimate lollipop moment… I thanked him several times… We finished the conversation, and he told me that he was very impressed by what I had said to him. He soon left, but he left me with a thought that keeps reverberating in my mind: people pay attention to the way we behave, both inside and outside of our education. The image we portray in such circumstances either promotes God or degrades Him, and as Christians, we are to glorify God, not only in what we say, but also in what we do. I knew this already, but it carried so much more meaning after my experience in talking to this man. I’m not boasting about my accomplishments, but I am pointing out that even the smallest things we do can have a huge impact on others…
When I read this, I was amazed. Think of the influence and impact this young man had on that lawyer, just because of how he communicated! Let this sink in for a moment – this lawyer determined the style of education for his children based off of the actions of one individual! This just goes to show the influence, the power, that each of us have in our communication.
Will you be intentional and purposeful in your communication? How are you going to use your influence? You never know who you’re impacting.
This is one of the best TED talks I have seen. The six minutes it takes to watch it is a valuable investment of your time.
I came away from watching this video with two main observations:
Tell people that you appreciate them.
“How many of you guys have a lollipop moment? A moment where someone said something or did something that you feel fundamentally made your life better? How many of you have told that person they did it? See, why not? We celebrate birthdays where all you have to do is not die for 365 days, and yet we’ve got people who have made our lives better walk around without knowing it.”
Drew Dudley hit the nail on the head with this quote. Imagine if someone came up to you and told you that you’d had a profound impact on their lives. Think about the impact that would make on you. I know it would make my day, or even my whole week! Some of you may have had that experience already – you know what it’s like. Go do that for the people in your life who have profoundly impacted you. Show appreciation to the people you appreciate.
What kind of influence did you have when you don’t remember what you did?
Drew Dudley said that he didn’t at all remember the entire situation. In this case, something he had no recollection of ended up positively impacting someone. But he didn’t remember it. What about the times we don’t remember? What kind of impact have we had that we aren’t aware of? It could have been a positive impact, but it could also have been negative. This is why purposeful communication is so important. Apparently the scenario didn’t stick with Drew Dudley because his brain for some reason didn’t recognize it as important. But it was important. We can never let our guard down. We’re always communicating, so we always have to be intentional in what we communicate.
People have changed our lives, and we are changing other’s lives. Don’t let opportunities slip away, both to thank people and to be a positive influence.
Influence. If you think about it, everyone has influence in some sphere of life. It’s just a fact. But that fact should make you stop and think. What am I doing with that influence? How am I using and managing that influence? How am I acquiring that influence?
There are two ways to use your influence. You can be a leader, or you can be a ruler. The difference between leaders and rulers is huge and extremely fundamental. At an Institute for Cultural Communicators training event this past spring, president and co-founder of ICC, Teresa Moon, spoke on the differences between leaders and rulers. Let’s take a look at a few of the differences that she pointed out:
- Leaders have followers; rulers have subjects. This is big! The primary difference between leaders and followers is the people they are influencing. Leaders have followers, people who want to follow and be influenced. Rulers, on the other hand, have subjects, people who have no choice but to follow and do what they’re told.
- Leaders are given their influence; rulers create their influence. Leaders are given their position by their followers. The followers want the leader to lead because of something in them – their character. Rulers force their position on their subjects. Followers choose; subjects are chosen.
- Leaders care about their followers; rulers use their subjects. Leaders are who they are not because they want influence but because they care about people and want to help them. That’s why followers choose them as leaders to start with. To contrast, rulers are only interested in influence and view their subjects only as means to an end. Rulers don’t care about their subjects as people, but merely as “things” to exert influence on.
Ultimately, leaders reflect the heart of God and His love, whereas rulers use force, which isn’t in accordance with what God calls us to.
From this comparison, it’s pretty clear which we should desire to be! Like I said at the beginning, we all have influence in some way. We must, therefore, choose whether we’ll be leaders or rulers. It’s easy to want to be a leader, but harder to actually practice it. I can definitely attest to this. Normally I’m fine with being a leader until things don’t go exactly how I want them to. Then I start to turn to the practices of a ruler so I can get things done the way I want them. It’s not always easy to be a leader! But it’s the right thing.
I encourage you to analyze your actions in light of leaders versus rulers. Strive to be a leader, no matter how hard it might be. When you find yourself tending toward the habits of a ruler instead of a leader, identify the circumstances encouraging this behavior so that you can best adjust your perspective, attitude, and actions.
If we all have influence in some way, then we must choose to be either a leader or a ruler. Choose to be a leader. Yes, let’s be leaders.
The phrase “you have to choose your battles” is common. It basically means that you can’t address every problem you encounter, so you have to choose the most important ones and let the rest go. There’s a huge amount of wisdom in this. But how do you choose your battles? How do you decide whether or not something is worth “fighting” for?
Here are a few factors to take into consideration when making a decision regarding whether or not to address an issue or to let it be:
- Is it a moral issue? If the answer is no, then it’s most likely not worth addressing. If it’s not an issue regarding right and wrong in God’s eyes, then there can’t be an absolute regarding the issue. Therefore, to address the issue would actually be unwise; you’d be arguing using your own personal preference instead of absolutes. That’s not to say that personal preference isn’t important, but your personal preference isn’t the only one that matters.
- Who/what does this issue affect? For me, if the issue is one that only hurts or affects me, then I’m less likely to address it. Not because I want to be the holy martyr, but because I want to be outward-focused, esteeming others above myself (Philippians 2:3). So I’d rather invest my time addressing issues that affect others, not ones that affect myself. I don’t consider this to be a hard and fast rule, but just an important factor to keep in mind.
- How will this affect my relationships with those involved? This one is tough. I don’t believe for a moment that we should never offend anyone or do something that might stress or break a relationship. But a good question to ask is, “which is more important: my relationship with this person, or this issue?” Sometimes doing what’s right means breaking or straining a relationship. However, sometimes we can get so caught up in “being right” that we forget that we may hurt people in the process of seeking what’s right when it’s really not worth it and wouldn’t honor Christ.
Ultimately, though, the decision must come from God’s wisdom. Proverbs 2:6 says that “the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (NKJV). When choosing which battles to fight, pray hard and follow God. The three factors I shared may help, but won’t give you the right answer on their own. In reality, there really isn’t a clear-cut method to determining the answer apart from heeding the voice of the Holy Spirit. And that’s the way it should be.