Then, there's the word study I did several weeks ago in preparation for this series on igniting personal influence. It's a simplification, but the main points lay out something like this---
There's the Latin root "flu", meaning "flow".
Many words in our language are constructed on the Latin "flu". For instance---
Flux: the motion of flowing, as in everything is in a state of flux.
Fluent: easily flowing, as in words.
Affluence: much flowing, as in a person of wealth.
Confluence: flowing with, as in a confluence of ideas.
Effluent: flowing out of someone or some thing.
Influence: flowing from one person to another person or situation.
In a literal sense, influence is the action of an individual flowing character, ideals, ideas, values, and other important life realities into another person or set of circumstances.
Several presumptions overlay the idea of effective influence---
1. Influence involves relational proximity.
This kind of closeness was evident in the ministry and teaching of Jesus. He
emphasized loving others, being people of relational integrity, exemplifying the
traits of compassion, and genuine caring. His relationships with the Twelve is a
prime example. Mark wrote, "And he went up on the mountain and called to
him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve
(whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might
send them out to preach (Mark 3:13-14). This proximity isn't always a physical
presence, but may be shared values and attitudes, an emotional or spiritual
2. Impediments to relational flow must be minimized.
Humans differ at many levels of interaction. Every single person has biases,
preferences, likes and dislikes, mannerisms, and distinctions that can impede
relational interaction, thereby reducing the potential of person-to-person
influence. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-11) and The Fruit of the Spirit
(Galatians 5:22-23) provide guidance in forming the character of influential
people. More than anything, these verses provide Scriptural attitude
adjustments that make communication and relational integrity a possible for
3. Genuine influence flows from the heart.
This flow one heart to another was an ancient connection known to Solomon
and the Old Testament saints. He wrote, "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for
from it flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23). Jesus amplified this truth even
more when he said, "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart
produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for
out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45). Genuine
influence is deeper than what we see.
4. Relational integrity re-positions others in our priorities.
Scripture is the supreme lesson plan in relating to others. Throughout the Bible
this lesson plan challenges our natural bent to self-absorption so that others
hold a place of priority in our life schemata. Numerous verses and entire
sections of Paul's Epistles were dedicated to biblical inter-relational dynamics.
Genuine human influence is possible only when we are able to live the Bible
standards regarding other people. Thinking more highly of them than ourselves
is a high bar (Philippians 2:3) that must be maintained if our influence is to real.
It is the humility thing, again.
5. Transparency is essential in igniting personal influence.
Jesus was very clear in his use of the Greek "hupocritos" the dreaded "H" word
that we are so careful about and reluctant to use. Literally it refers to the Greek
stage, the mask wearers who alternated between the tragedy and comedy of
Greek drama. Being fake, artificial, cloaked in pretense, or wearing masks won't
work in situations of influence. Paul wrote an important passage that deals
with authenticity. He wrote, "to put off your old self, which belongs to your
former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be
renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after
the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:22-24).
For our influence to shine, this new self needs to shine.
These are difficult interactions in times like these. Every year I read liberal theologian Harvey Cox's The Secular City (New York: McMillan Company, 1965) as a reminder of the cultural traits he predicted in post-Christian America. He imagined our nation as one of mobility and anonymity. We would be on the move and hidden. To a great degree, his prophetic interpretation of the times has been very accurate. The pace of life and the new world of personal veneers and pretense make these relational metrics more difficult to maintain. In the process, genuine influence is more the exception than the rule. The flowing is hindered.
Shine? Yes, of course. But, the word for the day is flow. That's real influence, when we flow into others.