Make a circle, make it wide
“If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change. ” Michael Jackson
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” –not Ghandi, no matter what the memes say
It sounds like good advice, doesn’t it? Actually, it is good advice.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking other people should change. In reality, what we usually mean when we say that is that we think other people should be more like us. They should think like us, behave like us, hold the same values we hold, embrace the same belief systems we embrace.
Our lips may say “diversity”, but our behavior often says “affirm me by being like me”.
It’s a slippery slope. From there you can pretty much figure a sloppy slide into judgment. It may be in the name of justice. It may even be in the name of humor, a sarcastic and snarky slap at a people group that is different from you. But it’s judgment, nevertheless, and it builds walls and shuts out the very people we believe should be like us. As in…on the INSIDE of the wall, thinking as we think, behaving as we behave. But the truth is that you won’t have a place of influence in the lives of those you’ve judged and alienated, whose dignity you’ve assaulted, even if you believe they are behaving without dignity already. So if that’s important to you, you may find you have some positions worth reconsidering.
Think of it this way: for the sake of being right, looking smart or clever, or having a laugh, who is disposable in your sphere of influence?
People with a different sexual orientation than you?
People of a different race than you?
People on welfare?
People who’ve committed crimes?
Kids who have their faces in their phones?
People who disagree with you?
The list could go on and on, you know. We humans are very complex. There will always be someone drastically different from us, someone we vehemently disagree with and don’t understand.
But hear me clearly: you can have a relationship with people you disagree with. You can have influence in the lives of people who are deeply different from you. You can have a relationship and influence without having an agenda.
In other words, you can have a relationship without trying to convert the other person to your way of thinking or behaving. That’s manipulation. It smells bad and nobody likes it.
Love isn’t an emotion. Love is a power. People who live lives of love, kindness, and respect are powerful people, and they are attractive safe havens for important conversations that aren’t contrived to meet an agenda.
God loves people. He loves all kinds of people, even the rascals, miscreants, and rapscallions. In fact, I think He loves them a little harder, because they need it so much. He would like them to love Him too, but He’s not interested in “love” produced by manipulation. He is willing to love them where they are, as they are. He knows that one of the things Love does best is transform hearts. It doesn’t have to manipulate to do so. It need only be the power that it is.
Make no mistake: I’m a Jesus freak and I believe the world would be happier if everyone in it knew how awesome He is and how much He loves them. But Jesus in me is willing to let people be who they are. He wants me to represent Him in the way I love, not the way I manipulate or shame those who either don’t know him or have messed up and are afraid He doesn’t like them anymore. And if they decide they don’t want to love Him, He doesn’t excuse me from a relationship with them.
You are an influencer. Wait—you read that too quickly. Slow down and let it sink in.
You have a sphere of influence. You have a world view. You have a guiding set of values. You are influencing people whether or not you believe you are. The behaviors and attitudes you model are the ones you give your sphere of influence permission to adopt and demonstrate to their own spheres of influence. This works whether you choose positive, kind, loving thoughts and behaviors, or negative, violent, dismissive ones.
Use your powers for good, not evil. Refuse to throw rocks at the bad, and instead BE the good.