When I was around 10 years old, I watched a lot of "Little House on the Prairie" and decided to start my own one-room schoolhouse. The classroom was my living room, and my only student was my younger sister. I, of course, wore a pioneer bonnet which I had begged my mom to buy from an antique shop. I don't remember what my strategy was, but I remember that I had one. I had pages of handwritten questions and literature for my "class" to memorize. Much to my disappointment, my little ruse did not last long because my sister quickly deducted that she had no reason to follow my instructions. She could study on her own without my peering and quizzing. I was persistent, but ultimately I didn't have influence.
Have you ever felt like that as an adult? Like your influence is unwanted or unseen? Or maybe you think you're only a student. The truth is, we are all students and teachers. In every subject of life, we continue to learn, and there are subjects where we need help from others. Then there are the subjects that come easy. For me, writing has always been the subject that just feels right. It's a skill I've pursued and grown in, and it's a way that I have influence today. But it's not just about our obvious academic or technical skills. I wouldn't be where I am if I hadn't grown in compassion and decisiveness. As I continue forward, I know there are a lot of areas where I am not intentional and have so much more to learn.
What are the areas where you put your focus? What insight do you have from your experiences? It could be related to hospitality, endurance, creativity, physical health, philosophy, empathy, or something more specific—your perspective and expertise show in the little things you do. So what are you teaching?
Most of the time, we don't realize we're influencing others until someone says something like, "I notice you _." Once we become aware of people's observance, we overanalyze and feel self-conscious. We need to find the balance between self-awareness and authenticity. Instead of obsessing over how people might see our weaknesses, we can put more energy into our strengths. Let's think about how we can best utilize our gifts to reflect God's love.
When we work on self-improvement in any area, we tend to focus on the "inner self." We contemplate why we are how we are and how we can change. This is a good first step, but we need an outward purpose for our inner analysis. What moments are opportunities to show rather than tell the wisdom you've gained? How can your new goals help you encourage others in the ways they need? The more you listen to others, the more people will trust you and look to you as an example. The next time someone in your life tells you about a concerning habit or view, think for a minute about what kind of model you are in that area. Instead of telling that person, "You shouldn't do that!" you can simply listen and then offer an example from your life that leads to a positive focus. I know how easy it is to blurt out an opinion (and also to be a hypocrite), but words of guidance usually don't make an impact without alternative actions to follow.
Our self-righteousness or our insecurities often shadow our interactions with others. We either think we know it all or doubt we have anything helpful to model. We are wrong in both cases. God created every one of us with more value and capability than we know. He also tells us to live with humility because we are each equally imperfect, and no amount of wisdom or skill makes us better than the next. When our choices lead others on a positive path, that doesn't mean we are "ahead." It means we are pursuing our calling to care for one another, and there will always be times when we receive that gift from someone else.
You might think you're too inexperienced, too damaged, too full of mistakes, not smart enough, or not seen enough - God says that's not true. No matter who you are or what you've done, you can influence people. Make the decision to see what God sees in you and show it to the world.
Written Content Coordinator at Sun Valley Community Church. An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.