©Joy Dunlap https://joydunlap.com
Each day we make countless choices – what we wear and eat, where we go, who we connect with, what we read, hear and watch, and how we react.
Although it may not be our career vocation, we are all influencers. Our actions and reactions send messages to those we encounter.
Consider these five choices we can make to influence and impact change in our communities – and in ourselves:
CHOOSE TO LISTEN
In listening to the viewpoints and life stories of others, we broaden our perspective. Even if we don’t agree, we gain understanding into what others think and feel and why. Our tuning in lets others know they are heard – even though we may not personally embrace their views.
As we reflect on what others say, we examine our principles and opinions, and solidify or modify the positions we have. When we listen intently and respond civilly, we begin to dialogue and discover commonalities.
Remember to pause and pray before issuing a rapid response to a differing view.
The more we listen, the less we talk. That means more focus on others and less on ourselves.
As we work on our listening skills with others, we are wise to choose to listen first and foremost to God and His Word.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7 NIV
CHOOSE TO LEARN
When we stop learning, we cease growing. Lifelong learning is key to continued growth. Whether it’s a new language, computer programs, exercise, crafts, cooking, or developing new career skills, our commitment to keep learning not only adds to our knowledge base, it also impacts our mental acumen. Recently on social media, I asked what new activities friends had done during the pandemic. Several had taken up vegetable gardening; some pursued new exercise endeavors; others explored creative arts and crafts.
Millions of books, podcasts and videos are at our fingertips waiting to expand our minds, help us try projects, and explore new areas.
While knowledge is an admirable pursuit, wisdom born of discernment is even more valuable.
Dig into God’s word and discover its truths and guidance to grow in wisdom in ways unimaginable.
Indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:3-6 NIV
CHOOSE TO LEAD
Even if we’re not in a position of leadership in our careers, communities or organizations, we lead. The question is “Where are we leading others?”
A well-known Biblical story recalls when some couldn’t get their paralyzed friend through a crowd to see Jesus, they bypassed the crowd, carried their friend up to the roof and managed to place him directly in front of Jesus.
Leadership of any kind involves keeping focus on the primary goal and being wise and intentional in the use of time, resources, communication and connection to support that.
Leading well is less about leaving a personal legacy, or capitulating to a loud crowd, and more about demonstrating strength and confidence combined with integrity.
So, can others clearly see where we’re heading? If we were to ask what others believe is most meaningful and the primary goal in our life, what would they answer?
Leaders set examples. As believers, we need to remain ever cognizant of the impact our words and deeds have on those we encounter and ones who are watching.
When we have confidence that flows from within, we don’t have to tear others down to try to build ourselves up.
A life of purpose lived with passion, integrity and faithfulness as we use God’s gifts for His glory is performance art of the highest kind because it points to the Creator.
Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good.
In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:6-8 NIV
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 NIV
CHOOSE TO LIFT UP
Who doesn’t get a boost when a positive card, text or email arrives? Our thoughtful actions can lift others up through encouragement, but we can also lift each other up to the Lord in prayer.
Prayers often focus on healing and protection, but Scripture gives us examples in how to be intentional in lifting others up for spiritual strength, power and endurance.
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God… Colossians 1:9b-10 NIV
But it isn’t just friends or believers for whom we’re called to pray. In Matthew 5:44 NIV, Jesus says, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Let’s transform our prayer lives into spiritual lift-ups for others. Pray genuinely for others to have a deepening understanding of God’s presence and guidance.
CHOOSE TO LOVE
When we start from a posture of love with others, we see and respond differently. Love is an attitude, an emotion and an action.
When derogatory, demeaning and destructive words become tools of choice, those wielding them appear less concerned about building conversation and relationship, and more interested in pushing forth an agenda, tearing down, and bullying.
Conversely, if goodness, kindness and compassion genuinely and consistently overflow in our words and deeds, then it becomes easier for others to recognize and feel love.
Love starts in the heart and spreads outwards.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:3-7 NIV
- What choice did you make this week that you’re particularly glad you did? (Yes, it can be eating that hot fudge sundae – or drinking that pumpkin latte – or not!) Or something deeper..?!
- Which of these five choices is one you feel you consistently do well? Which one would you most want to improve?
- Do the words and actions you use build or break? Boost or batter? Reflect on recent interactions.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 2 Peter 1:5-7 NIV
Life is Better When It’s Full – Joy-full, Thank-full, Purpose-full and Friend-full! ™