There’s an old story about a guy who gets a tour of Heaven and Hell. In each place, there’s a roomful of people seated at a table with a big pot of soup in the middle and each person has a four foot spoon attached to their hand. In Hell, the people look emaciated and are groaning with hunger. In Heaven, each person is healthy and well-fed, laughing and enjoying life. The guy asks, “What’s the difference?” His tour guide explains, “In Heaven, the guests have learned to feed each other. In Hell, each one is concerned only with feeding himself.”
Every one of us has some level of influence. The question isn’t how much or how little, or even how to get more. The most important question we must consider about the influence we have is, “How do I use it?” The way I see it, you can only leverage your influence in two directions- For yourself or away from yourself. When you find yourself in a position of influence, do you capitalize on it for your own gain or do you leverage that influence for the sake of others?
You don’t have to look far to find people who have leveraged their influence for their own gain. The older sibling who gets the front seat through threatening looks and gestures. The politician who throws his weight around to push his ideas through. The lady in the office who flexes her seniority to get her way. The pastor who gets everything he wants because- well, because he’s the pastor and he said so. Sure, those people get what they want, but they also make a lot of enemies on their way there.
You have to search a little harder to find people who leverage their influence the other way, and the reason you do is because they aren’t jockeying for position, so they aren’t as visible. Instead of spending their efforts and resources to get their way, they’re using what they’ve got for the sake of others. Instead of pushing their way to the front of the line, they’re willing to take a back seat. And you know what I’ve noticed about the people who do that consistently? In the end they often get what they want, too, but instead of arriving at their goal with a trail of bodies and egos in their wake, they arrive with friends and supporters at their side.
Time and time again I’ve seen that when you’re willing to sacrifice for the sake of others, they’re willing to sacrifice for you right back. When I’m humble and willing to serve, it can spur others to do the same thing, and in time, instead of a roomful of people pulling and struggling against each other to get what we each want, we become a community of people serving and helping each other achieve goals together.
“You know that those regarded as Gentile rulers lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man didn’t come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus, in Mark 10:42-45
Have you seen this expressed, for good or bad, in your life? Comments are always welcome.