Influence is everywhere, and has been since the Garden of Eden.
It is very noticeable there in the temptation of Eve by the serpent, Satan. Here’s how it went down.
The serpent showed up and asked Eve a question that seemed innocent enough. “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
She answered exactly as the serpent wanted. “No, we can eat the fruit of every tree but one. God said ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.'”
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)
The very next phrase is, “The woman was convinced.” That would never have happened to me, I probably said once. But of course it has.
All of us at some point have given in to the influence of a tempter or been the victim of targeted influence. We ourselves have failed, and also influenced someone else in a way we knew was not good.
Still, some hold “influencers” in high regard and would like to be one. Why? Money is part of it.
Influencing for profit
Like writing a hit song or best-selling book, there is plenty of money to be made as a top influencer.
How much can you make? Somewhere between thousands and millions of dollars per year. A lot of it depends on how many followers you have, and some of it depends on sponsorships.
If you have influence, any number of companies will pay you to use your influence for their benefit.
That’s pretty good, but not like Kylie Jenner. She has 399,000,000 followers on Instagram (I am not among them) and is rumored to earn (are you sitting down?) $1 million for each post.
That $1,000,000 per post is one thing you do not have in common with Kylie. The number of followers is another.
In fact the list of things you don’t have in common with Kylie Jenner is long, and for much of that you should be thankful. But there is one important thing you do have in common with her: you both influence other people.
Does your influence make a difference?
In a word, yes. Your influence of others has an impact on their lives. That impact may last long or fade quickly, it may stop with them or be passed on. In any case, your life can be changed by the influence of others and vice versa.
Sometimes we get to see the results of our influence. In other cases we will never know the impact we had.
Cotton Mather was a Puritan preacher who also authored books and papers. In those roles he influenced many people and knew it.
He did not know, however, that one of his pamphlets, discarded by one person and later picked up by another, changed the world.
Decades later, the one who as a boy had picked up that pamphlet sent a letter to Cotton Mather’s son and told him about it. The letter said that the pamphlet, Essays To Do Good, changed his life.
He said that from then on he lived his life to do good, and that had made all the difference.
That man was Benjamin Franklin, whose positive impact on the world would be difficult to overestimate.
One man unknowingly influenced one boy who grew up and changed the world.
In a gulag in Russia, a political prisoner who was a medical doctor seized an opportunity to share his story with another prisoner. That prisoner later wrote about the incident.
“Following an operation, I am lying in the surgical ward of a camp hospital. I cannot move. I am hot and feverish, but nonetheless my thoughts do not dissolve into delirium, and I am grateful to Dr. Boris Nikolayevich Kornfeld, who is sitting beside my cot and talking to me all evening. The light has been turned out, so it will not hurt my eyes. There is no one else in the ward.
“Fervently he tells me the long story of his conversion from Judaism to Christianity. I am astonished at the conviction of the new convert, at the ardor of his words.
“We know each other very slightly, and he was not the one responsible for my treatment, but there was simply no one here with whom he could share his feelings.”
That night the guards killed Dr. Kornfeld, either because of his Christianity or because he was sharing that belief with another prisoner. Either way, the patient knew that he had heard Kornfeld’s last words and said they were an inheritance. “You cannot brush off that kind of inheritance by shrugging your shoulders.”
The patient was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and through the influence of Dr. Kornfeld he turned from atheism to Christianity. After his release from prison he went on to win the Nobel prize in literature. His writings influenced millions both in Russia and America and helped bring down the Soviet Union.
Will you or I influence someone who makes that kind of difference in the world? Perhaps, so we should be aware of the influence we have.
But even if it is just one person you influence for the good, it is worth it.
When someone asks your opinion, be aware of your influence. When you tell a story that is positive, be aware of those who are listening. If you tell one that is negative, be even more aware of who is listening.
Finally, be aware of attempts made to influence you. Politicians, sales people, and professional influencers are being paid to persuade you, after all, and they are very good at it.
Many of those people are good, some are like the serpent.
Influence can be exceedingly powerful. Whether you are paid or not, use yours for good.
Do good. It’s in you!