“. . . let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16
Regardless whether we are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, brilliant or simple, young or old, we all influence the lives of those with whom we come in contact in some way. Influence is perhaps the most powerful of all human social characteristics in that anything we say or do may shape the life of someone else, often without our being aware.
Once, many years ago, while attending a large gathering I overheard a man telling someone else that he was in the process of changing careers, one that on the one hand would limit his income but on the other would allow him the freedom to do those things that are more meaningful and significant. I’m quite sure that gentleman never knew there was someone eavesdropping, nor did he realize that what he said would powerfully influence the life of a bystander. But it was in that moment that a seed was planted in my mind that began the process of my own career change some years later.
Who’s listening when we speak? Who’s watching what we do? Who’s observing our everyday lives? Who’s overhearing our conversations? For better or worse, who are we influencing and in what way? It is sobering to realize the power we have to influence good or evil, success or failure, hope or despair, inspiration or disappointment.
Like the man whose conversation I inadvertently overheard at a party we seldom realize the far-reaching impact of our influence. Perhaps that is even more reason to be conscious of the awesome responsibility we have in what we say and how we behave, for every word we speak and every action we take inevitably shapes the life of another.
There’s a quote I once read attributed to John Quincy Adams. “The influence of each human being on others in this life is a kind of immortality,” he said. Jesus put it another way, “. . . let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”