One thing that fundamentally shapes how we think, feel, and believe is our perspective on influence. It informs what we expect and how we behave.
There are three elements at play when we consider influence. Our character, our community, and our culture. We hold these three in tension. We realize that, at least to some degree, they are interconnected. Each is affected by the others. But which comes first? Which leads the way? Do they all carry equal weight?
At times, this can feel like an art-imitating-life-imitating-art run around that is a complete waste of time. Like arguing whether chicken or egg comes first. There might be some truth to that. But unlike these things, which are largely external considerations, the questions about influence are decidedly individual, personal. They guide the way we think and live.
So, we are looking at two options here. The first is that everything starts without. Culture shapes our communities and then our communities shape our character. Whether we realize it or not, this is the predominant perspective of most of us. We think society is to blame for our ills. Institutions are the trend setters and have a responsibility to change us all for the good.
We call this victim mentality. In essence, it is the perspective that we are changed from the outside-in. That, in order to be transformed, the externals need to change. The flow of influence is external – to – internal.
The other option is to perceive change happening from the inside out. That it is our character that shapes communities and then our transformed communities that shape culture. This is harder. This puts the onus on the individual. The problem is ME rather than “them”.
It is a challenge because it moves us from the realm of hiding and complaining to one of ownership and action. Character development ceases to be a spectator sport. We’d rather watch and boo (or cheer) when the team we’ve chosen to support makes a good move one way or the other. We want to watch the game rather than get in shape, go to practice, struggle through failure, and learn how to play.
Power of Perspective
This is also an incredible opportunity. It is a revelation. It provides the chance for us to move. To break free from the shackles of our false perspective and start to steward the lives we’ve been given. To affect change rather than waiting to be affected by change.
Perspective is one of the most powerful forces in humanity. And if we can adopt a proper perspective about the flow of influence, we are more likely to see ourselves, our relationships, and our society transformed into something better. It is proper only because it is true. If we hold to a false view of the flow of influence, we will wait idly for our character to change while the very institutions we hope will change them continue to decay as a result of those very same idle characters.