The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt
the one who does not,
and the one who does not eat everything must not judge
the one who does, for God has accepted them.
It’s a powerful tool. A useful one certainly, especially as it pertains to sharing the gospel. But, I have realized something recently that has me questioning familiar models of influence. It started because I realized that something had shifted in the way my husband and I were communicating about tough subjects. Our conversations was getting easier. Why?
As I began to dissect what was changing in our communication I realized, I was. I had completely changed the way I approached tough conversations, on topics like finances, jobs, or our family’s future. What does this have to do with influencing?
Well, I had spent so much of our marriage with an understanding that compromise is healthy, influencing others is positive, knowing whether you are right or wrong is important to bring about change. I usually would listen well, as my husband shared his views and opinions on a given topic. Then I would share mine (which were usually opposed to his!) Then after this, we were supposed to come to a compromise, thus begins the process of influencing. A process of convincing him that I was right, or right enough to meet in the middle somewhere. Or worse yet, convincing him I was valuable enough for him to sacrifice his views to meet in the middle with mine.
One very important thing has changed
As I began to reflect on what my new method of influencing was, and why it was working, I realized one very important thing has changed. I had stopped trying to influence him. My new method held a few key beliefs I had begun to live out.
1. We were very different people who experience life differently not wrongly or rightly necessarily.
2. Just because his opinions or experiences were different than mine, it did not make my opinions or experience belittled, or in need of changing.
3. I could allow him the freedom to think differently, and experience life differently than me. This allowed me to continue to experience life and think how God made me to think.
4. We didn’t have to agree, or even compromise. Why? Because it was no longer about being right or wrong and influencing the other person enough to find a compromise!
5. This is probably the most important belief: He is a person, not an opinion needing to be “righted.”
Whether it is our actions, beliefs, thoughts, or anything else needing “influence” I wonder if the best method to exact change in someone else, is to stop trying to influence them. Instead, see them as a person, not an opinion needing to be “righted” or a belief needing to be “adjusted.” When we begin to see people, we no longer see the right and wrongness of the person, we just see the person.
Guess what the results were when I stopped trying to influence him?
My husband and I talk more than ever about anything and everything, the hard and not so hard topics. We trust each other more, because our communication is safe – we don’t have to prove ourselves right or wrong, we can be free to just be honest. We began to change more quickly and willingly, because we didn’t have defense mechanisms flaring up keeping progress at bay and we had no real need to be “the right one” so shifting mindsets became a natural progression.
So, try testing a different approach to influencing others, even if it is to find and follow Jesus. Stop trying to change them. That’s not our job anyway. See them as people, not opinions, give them a safe place to share honestly without needing to be right or wrong, and you’ll find yourself with a safe place to share too.