Who’s Influencing Whom? Making a Difference in the Workplace

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It was just a joke, guy banter in the break room. It was funny and very inappropriate. My conscience burned that night. I shouldn't have laughed. Why did I laugh? It wasn't the first time I acted in ways contrary to my Christian faith. Why are people able to influence me so easily?

Under the Influence

I know there are several books and articles written about adolescent peer pressure, but I'm an adult now. I shouldn't so easily succumb to the dark side. Nevertheless, I've realized there are at least three things that my flesh will never outgrow.

  1. Rebellion: Like Eve in the garden, people can emulate the "serpent's" suggestions and tempt us to act in disobedience against God's wisdom. I know better than to engage in inappropriate talk, but the act of rebellion had an allure that appealed to the sin in my heart. Even worse, I must guard against tempting others with my own words and behaviors. I'm just as capable of being Eve as anyone.
  2. Intrigue with Sin: There are some engaging movies where the bad guy cleverly and creatively carries out sinful behavior without getting caught. Sin can be innovative like that—and who doesn't want to be innovative? Granted, I am more than able to mess up in completely normal ways, but clever sin will always be tempting.
  3. Desiring the Approval of Others: When our spiritual “well” runs dry, we become most vulnerable to the influence of others. We are seeking someone to fulfill our need for approval, since we've neglected to spend meaningful time with God to meet that basic human need.

Sure, Jesus loved people and socialized with sinners with the best and worst of them, to the Pharisees' horror. But at the same time in the book of John we read, “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.”

My friend Shelly often states, “It's okay to love an unsafe person, but it's not okay to need an unsafe person.” And every person is ultimately unsafe. Anytime we “crave” approval from someone, we are setting ourselves up for a fall.

Light on a Hill

In light of my fallen nature and struggles, how do I start becoming the influencer instead of the one being influenced at work? Believe it or not, one of the greatest tools for influence is transparency. We often believe that non-Christians would be appalled to find out about our struggles; actually, the opposite is true. When we admit our faults and then set up limits, like declining going to the bar because you have a problem with alcohol or passing on “guys night out” because you desire to stay faithful to your wife and are committed to being home for your family, many people will tease you, but some of them will secretly respect you.

In this way, you haven't accused others of doing the wrong thing. Instead, you have only set limits for yourself. Many people will wish they had the courage to do this too. We fail as believers when we think that we have to control the actions of others. A message I often convey in my therapy sessions is this: You can't control someone else's behavior; you can only control your behavior and choices. And you make good choices by faith and reliance upon the living God.

When Life Gets Hot

But it can be hard when the boss skips you for a promotion, your coworker insults you, or an account is lost. It's during these crisis times that you have the greatest influence on your boss and coworkers. Everyone knows how to behave during the good times, but it's how you handle the difficulties in your life that speaks volumes about your faith. When Christians act contrary to the typical reactions of our culture, people sit up and take notice. Trusting God to meet our needs, repaying evil with good, and allowing God to use the trials in our lives shows the world and your office that maybe this “God thing” has something to it.

Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:

  • Is there an area of your life that you can be more transparent about? Read Ramblin' Dan's article "The World's Obsession with Power." He covers just how counter cultural we need to be to follow Christ.
  • How do you handle crisis situations at work? Read Mike Chalk's article,"Claiming Integrity in a Crisis." Mike shares how crisis can present opportunities for standing firm in our faith.

Photograph "Smile!" used with permission.

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