Friday, May 08, 2009

A Good Influence

When I was young, my parents rarely restricted my choice of friends. They believed that I was strong enough so that I could influence my friends rather than be influenced by them. That's a lot of trust to give to a girl and I did all I could to honor it.

As I look back, I find that I stood on either side of that fence. Sometimes negative input from friends crept into my life and I became something I didn't appreciate. Other times, I exerted a positive influence so as to encourage my friends in their own growth.

Over the last few weeks, I've really been trying to put the importance of that relationship between friends and family
into words. Sometimes we are completely unaware of how our words and actions impact those around us.

My mother taught me to weigh my words carefully. It is so easy for a mis-spoken word to wound, so I do my best to choose words that will encourage listeners, sometimes to the extent that I actually don't win position in the conversation. If I lose position, though ... I generally win confidence.

My primary love language is "Words of Affirmation." If you know me at all, this seems like a 'duh' perspective. So, what does this mean for me? It means that I react fully and completely to words that are spoken to me. If I receive negative, or even worse, blase input from those who love me, I shut down. If I receive positive input, I tend to light up and become more complete. While we each have varying love languages, I suspect that we all react well to positive input. Not only do I need positive words of affirmation, but I tend to speak those to the people I associate with and there is no one I've met that doesn't react to a positive influence in their lives.

Cynics and those with negative personalities have difficulty speaking positive words to others and many times have difficulty hearing positive words that are spoken to them. They reject it as unbelievable so the speaker is perceived to be lying or maybe even just ill-informed. These people wear me out! It's hard to be around them because they drain me, both in my own self-awareness and in my effort to encourage them past their negative blocks.

So, how do you interact with your friends and family? Do you expect a lot of positive influence from them, but withhold speaking words of affirmation? Is it easy for you to honestly offer a good word, a word of encouragement?

What would you do to those around you if you actually paid attention to them instead of your own needs and made an effort to encourage the small, little things that they do. What if you became the support for everyone around you instead of a drain on their emotions. What if this world was no longer about you, but about those that are closest to you?

Yesterday, I quoted from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a as I closed a blog on Love. Those same words apply today. Sacrificing our overwhelming sense of self so that others can be lifted up is what love is all about. Think of the amount of time you would have to encourage others today if you stopped spending so much time thinking about what the world could or should be doing for you!

And just in case anyone out there thinks I am specifically speaking to them, know that these blogs are generally an introspective study in how I treat the world around me ... not how it treats me. I may be an old lady (I know - I know - I'm trying to reject that label), but I know that I am nowhere near complete in learning how to interact with the people I love.

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