Influential Impact

February 22, 2022
outside easter 1992

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Over a year ago I slipped on a pair of baggy pants and was amazed that I thought they looked good. Just a few months earlier I would have felt unsightly and fat. I pondered this sudden change in perception knowing that my body weight was the same as it always was.

I remembered seeing my daughter wear high waisted loose pants, palazzo I’ve learned, and I thought they looked really cute on her.  Cha-ching!  A vote for flowing legwear was registered.  When I paid attention to the commercials and images in advertising I realized once again fashion had changed seemingly overnight.  My opinions had followed suit absent any conscious decision.

Our fluctuating taste in clothing is the perfect example of our ever malleable and easily influenced brains.  The 90’s brought a brief return to women’s floral hats.  It was a perpetual Kentucky Derby for a while until it wasn’t, and the trend sent the headwear to the Salvation Army bins.  Every decade brings a rotating array of accessories, hem lines, shoulder pads, fabrics, designs, hairstyles (facial and otherwise) that runs a cycle only to repeat years later in a slightly altered version.  These subtle revisions and attitudes towards them, creep up and absorb into our daily consciousness like “holiday full” on the scale come January.  

Madison Avenue discovered subliminal advertising in the 1950’s creating a bit of an uproar.  Although research has proven subliminal messages can’t make us do something we’re not already inclined towards, there is evidence that we are definitely affected. “Influencers” understand our human condition and have made a livelihood out of guiding our thoughts and opinions with every keystroke and post.  We shelter hidden and not so hidden biases regarding race, gender, body image, and a world of other areas as a direct result of what is fed into our daily thoughts from birth. 

Knowing that we are such creatures of suggestibility should make us more guarded with our precious intellect.  Are we making up our own minds or is someone making them up for us?  How do we know what to really believe when there are so many loud and opposing voices within earshot?  Is the conspiracy we read and hear about actually a conspiracy in itself?  

Social media has allowed a literal firestorm of rumor and the era of the con is illustrated weekly in the latest Netflix documentary and on front page news worldwide.  If I see an email, text, or article claiming a fact I try to do a bit of research from a variety of sources and use my own experiences and knowledge to round out my final opinion before I make it my own.  Relativist who forfeit truth for personal opinion and those with the agenda of greed, power or both have created murky waters to tread in our daily swim and it’s becoming more difficult each year to escape drowning.    

Staying afloat and sane with personal integrity requires tenacity and time. I’ve found in general moderate sensibilities are the safest, fair, and least damaging to myself and others.  The radical fringe can be frighteningly dangerous.  Moderates tend to see both sides and know how to compromise.  Absent this grace progress halts like Dr Seuss’ Zax face to face on the same path with neither willing to step aside and allow passing. 

The internet, like television and all media, is a phenomenon that can bring great good in our lives but can also be used for great evil. The insatiable desire to criticize, one up, and tear others down as a form of personal amusement has lifted the bully to an unprecedented stature.  The antihero has gone viral and both audiences and production can’t seem to get enough.  I can empathize with a sinner as much as anyone but it’s starting to become annoying when the wicked protagonist is constantly elevated regardless of the severity of the crime.  We can find ourselves rooting for the criminal and I don’t know how healthy that is for society at large. 

So, with all this bad news barraging our senses around the clock how in creation are we supposed to get out of bed and look forward to the beauty of the coming day?  First, we have to remember our every action begins as a thought.  How we nurture those thoughts contributes to the ultimate and powerful reality.  We literally become what we think and have the ability to strongly influence and shape others as well as ourselves.  This is an extraordinary responsibility in our interpersonal relationships and in becoming the person God created us to be.  

The science of neuroplasticity has opened up an amazing understanding of our brain function and the ability to actually change neural connections throughout our lifetime with our thoughts.  We have the ability to change our brains and our mental, physical, and emotional health. 

This is no new news to our Creator. God made us this way and we just seem to keep catching up with what has been told to us for millennia.  Christians need not be put off by words like “meditation”. We are instructed to ponder God’s word and our prayers are a form of meditation that include Him in the personal reflection and conversation.  What is Biblical Meditation?

Paul exhorts us in his letter to the Philippian church chapter 4:8 to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. “If anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things”.   Imagine a world where we all cumulatively parked our thought life in such a space.  There would be no negative self-talk perpetually tearing ourselves apart, or shredding of others.  Unfounded fears, paranoia, and loathing would evaporate into intentional concern for how we can make things better for everyone in the world around us, even those we disagree with.  We can think this way and still be “wise as serpents” (being conscious of duplicity) “yet gentle as doves.” Matthew 10:16.  

When the alarm or sunlight rouses you, I encourage you to take a breath and be thankful for all that you have that is good in spite, or in light, of your current circumstance.  Choose joy and resist the urge to go immediate work mode being sure to include the One who created you into your gratitude.  He is love and the reason why you have eyes to open and breath to appreciate each morning.  

13 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

James 3:13-18 NIV