It’s pretty easy to follow. Once we’ve made a decision to follow someone else we give up control over choices we would otherwise have to make ourselves. To be influenced by someone else in a significant way feels like the right answer because following can make us believe that we’re not responsible for what we are led to do. Most of us have been influenced in both good and bad ways. Influence is a tricky thing.
Sometimes we follow someone just because they’re the person who is in front of us at the moment, or they’re the person who is making the most noise. Sometimes the person or group we choose to follow undergoes a change (or are influenced themselves) so that what was once a safe or healthy influence has become dangerous and damaging.
Of course, influence is often a positive thing. Sometimes it’s healthy or necessary to follow someone else. If you’ve headed off in a bad direction the easiest way out is to follow someone who has been there and knows the route back to a healthy place.
So, how do we judge influence? How do we know if we’re following someone or something that’s leading us in a positive direction? There are no simple answers, and it’s not always easy to know for sure. But there are a few questions you can ask that will help you know whether or not to follow;
- Am I being influenced? Sometimes we are influenced in bad ways because influence disguises itself as guilt, shame, or jealousy. A wise person knows when they are being influenced and then deliberately judges that influence for themselves.
- Who am I putting in a position to influence me? You can only follow the people or things that are in front of you. If you are carefully choosing to be around people who are safe to follow then you have created your own safe zone of influence.
- Have I every been in a situation like this before? If you are questioning the influence that you are feeling, search your memory to look for examples of past influences and decisions. How did they work out? Your own history is a great teacher.
- Ask yourself who you are influencing. Sometimes the best way to judge the right course of action is to think of the most vulnerable or impressionable person you know. Would your choices be a good influence for that person?
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
Action: At the end of each day review how you have been influenced and how you have influenced others.