In 1624, poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main….” It’s the same today, nearly 400 years later. Some of us might like to live as autonomously as possible, but being “islands” isn’t possible. We influence – and are influenced by – the people that surround us, whether at work, in school, at home, wherever we go.
This raises several questions: What kind of influence will we have on others? What kind of influence will others have on us? And lastly, who will those people be?
A friend of mine, Scott, the CEO of a large corporation, offered the following insights:
“The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards.
They either help us to become the best-version of ourselves, or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends. No man becomes great on his own. No woman becomes great on her own. The people around them help to make them great.
We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the best-version of ourselves.”
Scott’s right. To think we can maintain standards and values by ourselves denies reality. Those we spend the most time with have an impact on our lives whether we’re conscious of it or not. It’s critical that we choose those people wisely. Do we want to become the “best-version” or ourselves, or accept a much lesser version?
When a President is elected, much consideration is given to those comprising the President’s Cabinet and chief advisors. Their influence – as well as the responsibilities they shoulder – help define the Chief Executive’s success or failure. The new head of a company carefully selects his or her leadership team, knowing they can help in making key decisions. A football coaches chooses assistants not only for their respective skills and expertise, but also for values that complement his own.
We also should be diligent in determining who we will “hang out” with on a regular basis. Are they people who will raise our standards – or ones that have the effect of lowering them? Because this is so important, the Bible devotes much attention to it. Proverbs 27:17 points out, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” This acknowledges there will be instances of necessary friction and heat; “sharpening” relationships sometimes produce sparks.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 presents profound observations about the impact we can have on one another. It states, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up…. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Sooner or later, we all stumble, fall down despite our best efforts. Who will be there to help us up? Will it be someone to steady us and get us back on track, or someone to cause us to fall even farther?
If our desire is to become the best-version of ourselves, we need others that offer encouragement and support. Regardless of our standing in society, we’d be wise to implement the admonition of Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together…but let us encourage one another….”
Even Jesus found it necessary to identify others to help with His redemptive mission, 12 men among many followers to carry on His work. It was a rag-tag, unpredictable bunch, but 11 of them eventually proved faithful in helping to establish the strong spiritual foundation upon which the Church – the body of Christ – still stands and grows. One of them, Judas Iscariot, failed the course, but even he served as an instrument for Jesus to accomplish His atoning sacrifice on the cross.
Again, the questions are worth pondering: Who are we influencing – and who are having the greatest influence on us? As Proverbs 18:24 says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” We all need the latter – hopefully more than one.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.