Who’s In Your Ear?
We are people of a diverse world. Human and influential. We are imperfect. With these things in mind, it is impossible for us to survive in this world without being affected by one another. The opinions of others and their personalities impact our lives like rain on a sunny day, molding our views and affecting our decisions – which isn’t always a good thing.
There were many times in my life where I had to circumvent the negative influence of someone else and their attempt to interfere with my better judgment. This was all due to a divine connection with God and His purpose for my life. For instance…
Influence as a young woman:
“Come on, take a pull on this cigar, it won’t hurt you. You might like it.”
It didn’t hurt me, however, that might have been because that was the only time I tried smoking. The long-term effects of smoking could have affected my livelihood, resulting in emphysema, cancer, or simply spending unnecessary money on a useless, intangible good.
Influence as a mother:
“You should spank your children whenever they misbehave. I did when my kids were younger.”
But, that was not the answer. Yes, we should chasten our children, but all situations do not warrant a spanking. Talking with my child with firmness and understanding has worked for me and resulted in the absence of fear, pain, and sadness. Instead, there was understanding and open conversation about the situation and why it was not a good choice for my child to make.
These influences and opinions of others were not favorable for me, nevertheless, others had opportunities to affect my personal thoughts and decisions.
Poor Judgment Happens
Like many events in our lives, the moments in which we have been influenced to make poor decisions are often learning experiences to mold the direction of future decisions. Being human, we are susceptible to blind spots which make us vulnerable to being influenced by ungodly actions. This is why the leading of the Holy Spirit is so important. Negative influence is often so subtle that it goes unnoticed and can easily entrap us.
Recently, I was at the library sitting in the children’s area and there was a lady that joked with me about this woman who was apparently struggling with her children’s behavior.
It felt good to be amid the parents that had children that were well-behaved, but I felt bad for the woman because she seemed very embarrassed by her children. When I returned home later that evening, while preparing for my bath, I felt convicted.
It was God’s conviction that reared deep within my spirit. Instead of listening to and smiling with the woman’s snide remarks about the struggling mother, I should have offered a heart and a hand. Our conversation had created a sense of comfort in being a mother with a disciplined child at the expense of another mother. That was not Christian-like, right?
Keeping Bad Company
Times of conviction such as this one makes me think about the impact of negative influence on our lives and how frequently it happens. Paul warns us about the dynamics of negative influence by saying,
“Do not be misled; bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
So, I ask you: How do you determine and respond to individuals who might indeed be considered “bad influence or company”? Here’s some guidance.
1. Identify the type of people whom scripture warns us about.
Proverbs explicitly defines behaviors we should avoid to ensure we stay away from negative and foolish people: gossip (Proverbs 16:28), lying (Proverbs 12:22) and lack of compassion (Proverbs 29:7), to name a few.
2. Use God’s gift of discernment.
In order to effectively combat negative influence and the character described above, we must have the gift of discernment. Pray that God will help you uncover the subtleties of negative influence, and understand how corrupting the power of ‘bad company’ can be and how it works against our faith and obedience to God.
3. Address and combat negative influence.
When discernment kicks in and alerts you to negative influence, bring communications and association with the negative influence to a halt. Don’t play around. Place yourself under the protective influence of God’s Word and His Spirit.
Embrace the positive influence of healthy Christian relationships with others. In John 17:20-23, Jesus prayed for His disciples to be one just as He and the Father are one. He knew that they would face temptation to follow the crowd, which is likely why the Word of God strongly emphasizes the importance of Christian unity. We need each other to remain strong, vigilant and encouraged.
So, what’s the play call?
When we focus on God’s truth, it helps us to transform our thoughts (Romans 12:2). The Word helps our minds fight sin and to make better decisions. Negative influencers will come, but by following God’s blueprint for our lives, we will make better choices to combat the negative influence of others.