A few years ago I read a magazine article where a woman wrote about the realization that she was making some of her life decisions based on whether her childhood authority figures would approve or not. She said she had probably passed over some excellent opportunities due to her concern about what her father, her childhood pastor, and her favorite teacher might have thought about it. I’ve heard others admit they also think of those people, but purposely do things that would shock them – an “I’ll show them” attitude.
All of us can fall into childish behavior now and then, but we need to be particularly cautious of this as we pursue God’s purpose for our life. We need to be conscious about who we allow to influence us.
There are plenty of people who have strong opinions about the what/where/how of my pursuit. But I am the one who chooses whose views hold weight with me. There are those who I admire, those who are subject matter experts in what I pursue, those I ask questions of and seek advice from. But I choose who will actually influence my course. It’s hard not to be swayed by the thought that someone you admire might disagree with you and you risk losing support or respect. It’s also hard when someone you don’t even know well (or at all) belittles you and your choices.
In the past I have had painful experiences of allowing people to emotionally control me, whether they were figures from my past that I allowed in my brain, or people who I gave too much weight to (they may or may not have been aware) or, sadly, those who stepped clearly into manipulation. I have been awake in the wee small hours of the morning, questioning my abilities because I’ve replayed their words and opinions in my head.
Oddly, what helped me is a discourse held in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, where the character Elizabeth Bennett wearies of the interference of other people outside her appropriate sphere of influence. She finally states:
“I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to YOU, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”
What “constitutes my happiness”? My answer is always: Following God
Who am I “referencing” in my current thoughts? Whose opinion/attitude has brought these thoughts about?
Is that person “wholly unconnected with me”? Should this person have any influence at all in the pursuit of God’s purpose in my life?
In what manner should I be “resolved to act”? If I am resolved to act to follow God and, if they should have no influence in this part of my life, I leave it behind.
“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”(Colin Powell)
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