It was a warm summer day and I had gone outside to mow the lawn. I was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and my grubby ballcap. I started the lawnmower engine and began my first pass in the front yard.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something that surprised and delighted me.
When I turned around, there was my 4-year old son Ben. He had his toy lawnmower and was following about fifteen feet behind me—far enough to be safe, but close enough to watch what I was doing. He was even dressed like me, down to the ballcap.
Little did I know he was watching me closely and copying my every move.
3 Circles of Responsibility
Whether or not you realize it, people are following you. The question is not whether you will be an example, but what kind of example you will be.
Given this reality, we must take responsibility for our lives. There are three circles of responsibility:
1. You are responsible to yourself. Life is a gift. Most people go through each day acting as if their lives are a burden. They act as if slogging through each day is a drudgery they must endure. There are problems in life, to be sure, and we all get depressed sometimes. But when you see life as a gift that you are given, you see problems in a whole new light. You also become much more grateful for each day.
2. You are responsible to others. Many people don’t buy into this philosophy. They only look out for themselves and “take care of number one.” But if you are a Christian, or even more generally, simply a mature person who understands what life is all about, you realize that you have a responsibility to others. You must leave the world better than you find it.
3. You are responsible to God. You are a steward of the life God has given you. You are not your own. You are not the ultimate authority in your life. God is. The question is: Do you recognize and act upon the fact that God is in charge of your life? Do you live with an awareness that your life is temporary, that it will end one day?
These realities can bring a new awareness of the brevity of life. We must live every day with an awareness of the immense responsibility we carry.
A Story About Unexpected Influence
It really is quite amazing how we can have so much influence over others, many times without even knowing it.
A number of years ago, a year or two after I became a college professor, I gave a Chapel message on the subject of dating. It was a very strong message, and I pleaded with students to think long and hard about whom they were dating. Some of them were dating people who were dragging them down. After the Chapel service was over, I didn’t give much more thought to it.
A few years later, one of our students told me she had been visiting the college that day as a prospective student. She heard my Chapel message and felt so convicted that she broke up with her boyfriend. At the time she told me this, she was dating one of the most dedicated male students on campus, and today they are happily married and serving in vocational ministry.
I don’t mention this story to make myself look good. In fact, I was completely blown away when she told me this. I felt very humbled that apparently God had used the message that day to nudge her into making a drastic change in her life. Rather, I mention it to illustrate how we can influence others without even knowing it.
Whether you do it from a stage, an office, or on the phone, you speak words every day that impact others’ thinking and values. More importantly, you influence others by the example you set and the actions you take.
It all comes down to this: No matter how much you talk, your actions always speak louder than your words. (Click to Tweet that.)
When you consider the number of people you interact with regularly, it’s quite staggering. We should never take this responsibility lightly! But the great news it that we have an incredible opportunity to make a positive difference in the world through our words, but even more so through our actions.