Some things just stay with you. I heard General Norman Schwarzkopf speak not long after the first Gulf War. He told a story about his first command and its early failure that eventually became success. The point to remember was, “when put in command, take charge”. Years later I was fortunate enough to sit in the U.S. Supreme Court Chamber and hear an impromptu lecture by Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia, leaning on the rail in casual attire, but still quite a powerful presence, said quietly at one point, “I am a teacher at heart, I have always been a teacher”. A man that had such an impact saw himself in a humble way that others likely did not. In my day timer I keep a quote from one of the most influential people of the last century. Henry Ford was asked how and why he came to develop the automobile despite no understanding of or demand for it. He replied, “if I had asked them what they wanted, they would have said, ‘faster horses’”. The vision to see what others cannot, is rare and impacting.
You have your own list of impacting things said, moments lived, and experiences shared. They live in your head, in a quiet place, but play a role in your thinking. I learned from the General, the Justice and the Visionary, things that have never left. That is sort of how life is don’t you think? Life consists of a lot of time filled with things that matter little and are remembered less, along with a handful of impacting moments like watching my soon to be wife walk down the aisle in October of 1989. Or being in the room when my kids took breath one as they entered this life.
In a recent conversation, an old colleague mentioned a comment that I made to him quite some time ago that he still remembers today, and that helped shape his thinking. That was initially a nice moment followed by the terror of thinking about the responsibility of something I said, impacting someone else. Interestingly enough, as Christians, that is EXACTLY what we are called to do: make an impact!
Matthew 5:13-16 says we are salt and light. We influence, we impact! Our Godly behavior provides an opportunity for others to glorify God.
Romans 12:2 explains that we must influence for good and not be influenced by the world. To be unusual in a monolithic world dominated by sin is our challenge.
Colossians 4:5 emphasizes the importance of the conversations we have with people in our lives, including the critical nature of the words we use and the way they are delivered.
Today, you will almost certainly have an opportunity to impact someone’s life. That opportunity is unique. The people you interact with today, will be in a specific place in their lives, one that will change quickly. The mix of circumstances and influences that provide shape to the mindset of those you will interact with today, offer an opportunity that is unlike yesterday and differs from tomorrow. Be mindful of the impact you can have by offering a well-placed word, displaying a humble attitude, and acting with a servant’s heart.
If you are curious about how to make an impact, modeling Jesus is a great place to start. The most impacting words ever spoken, were spoken by Jesus Christ. His teaching is timeless, transforming and trajectory changing. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). His most humble attitude was displayed on an unjust cross, as God’s Son chose to allow his own humiliating death (Philippians 2:8). He came to serve not to be served and backed it up with his actions (John 13:12-15).