We all want to live a life of purpose. We want to empower our institutions and change our world for the better. In short, we want to be people of influence. We want to be effective, stewarding our influence in a responsible and meaningful way.
Wielding influence can be difficult. For one thing, influence is not control. We cannot make anyone do anything. And when people fail to follow our lead, we tend to resort to either abandonment or control because we see their failures as our own.
We tend to view others as the biggest obstacle to utilizing our influence. If “they” would just do what I say or follow my advice, things would be much better. We grow in frustration as others don’t play their part.
The results are disastrous. We often give up altogether, believing we are failures. Or we cling to positions, striving for the affirmation of authority rather than the true power of influence. At our worst, we oppress, attempting to rule by force. We view others as obstacles that need to be overcome or assets that need to be utilized.
A Bigger Obstacle
But there is a much bigger obstacle to wielding influence than “others”. It hides behind the shield of what “they” are not doing, casting ourselves as victims of external forces.
The greatest obstacle to utilizing our influence is our own perspective. The truth is a complicated thing. We are neither saviors nor useless. In a world of extremes, we often believe the lie that we either need to dominate or shut up. Our voices become either oppressive or silenced. But it is not “the world” that does this. It is the acceptance of these inadequate perspectives.
A True Perspective
The truth is that we all have something to offer. We all have gifts and passions and abilities. These aren’t meant for us to hoard. They aren’t weapons to use against others. They are meant for us to use to serve the community. To create a better world. To participate in togetherness.
That sounds very nice. But it won’t always be easy. There will be rejection, hurt, disappointment. It won’t be easy and it won’t go as we imagine.
The trick is to give anyway. To love and serve and influence as best we can. And to be open to receiving the service, love, and influence of others. Influence is a two-way street.
The biggest obstacle to influence is ME. It is our inability (or unwillingness) to see beyond ourselves. Our habit of blaming others. Our obsession with positions and institutions. Nothing holds us back quite like ourselves. No matter the circumstances, we always have a decision to make. And our decisions influence the character of our souls, as well as the communities around us.