Influence is a concept that’s important in any culture. You hear about it in politics, in business, and in relationships. The word, influence, has a wide selection of strong synonyms….. “coerce, sway, bias, prejudice, intimidate, have an impact on, exercise power over, guide, control, shape, govern, alter, change, and the list could go on. Influence can be overt and tangible, but just as powerful when subtle or covert.
It was the annual beach trip, and three generations were piled into the beach house. This was the summer that my daughter would leave for college, and I was relishing the moment even more, wondering how easy it would be to get us all together again after she left home. The moms and girls decided to hit the beach together and enjoy the cool ocean breeze before leaving for dinner. Because the number of people outnumbered the bathrooms available, my daughter had already changed her clothes to go out to eat, having grabbed the bathroom when it was unoccupied. She almost didn’t go with us on the walk because she didn’t want to soil her clothes with sand and salt water. So when she changed her mind, I was glad.
Walking along, she was really careful not to get wet or get too near anyone where the sand and water would get on her clothes. After walking awhile, the tide had come in further, and our little group was moving closer together to talk, but further out into the water. It wasn’t too long until a wave rose higher than the previous ones and splashed all of us, my daughter included. She quickly jumped from the water’s edge, but it was too late. Sand and water had gone above her knees, and she was frustrated with having gotten messy.
On our way back to the beach house, the Lord spoke to my heart, and I spoke to her. “You know, our walk today is a lot like life. Going with the crowd today started out just fine. Your clothes were clean and dry. But along the way, everyone crowded in and moved further out into the water than you intended to go, and because you were in the crowd, you went too. It wasn’t even a conscious decision; you were just going along. Though you didn’t mean to get dirty, the wave overtook you in that moment and wet sand stuck to your clothes. That’s exactly the way things happen in life.”
I saw her forehead wrinkle, and so I continued, “There are times when you take a stand, then drift, and it’s unrecognizable perhaps until something happens. When you look back, you realize how different things are than you intended, how much further “in” you are than you intended.”
That lesson on influence went with her to college, and it wasn’t just her lesson that day either. I’ve reflected on that day at the beach many times since then when dealing with relationships, work situations, and issues that have come my way. James 4:4 tells us clearly, “…..do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world is an enemy of God.” In other words, we can’t be influenced by what’s around us (the world). Living in this world, we must firmly stand on His Word, letting it guide our decisions, shape our character, and change our lives for the better. That’s influence.