Thursday, May 20, 2010


We don't like other people telling us what to do. We don't want to be manipulated or controlled, and we hate feeling like someone else's puppet. We don't appreciate being used to further someone else's cause without regard to our own interests. Power struggles are not fun, and that is in part we often yearn so strongly for our own independence.

As children, many of us reached a point where we were ready to rebel against our parents. We wanted to throw off the yoke of their control and flout their rules. We wanted to make our own decisions without regard to their opinions, and we no longer wanted to do what they told us to do. We wanted to be released under our own supervision, free to make our own choices as we see fit. We wanted to call the shots. Those of us who wanted freedom badly enough did sometimes throw off the advice and control of our parents. I never completely shut my parents out of my life, but I have felt the stirrings of rebellion in my own heart, and sometimes I still feel it today. On some level, I want desperately to be my own master.

The truth is, however, that none of us lives in a vacuum. We are all influenced by other people and other ideas. No matter how independent we are, we cannot control everything that happens to us nor arrive at every conclusion on our own. We use information from all around us to make decisions, sometimes without even realizing that we have been influenced. We will always see and react to the world around us, and we cannot shield ourselves completely from the influence of others. So instead of rebelliously trying to block everyone out to create an illusion of complete independence, we ought to choose more openly and responsibly just what we want to be influenced by.

There are both positive and negative influences in this world. There are people who want me to do certain things because those actions would benefit them, and there are people who want me to do what's best for myself. I can't shut them all out, so I need to be able to tell the difference. My parents, for example, did not create household rules out of a desire to manipulate me and make me jump through hoops. The rules were about my safety and well-being and the health of the family as a whole. My parents were a good influence, and I would have been foolish to try to expel them from my life. Some of my peers were not good influences. They weren't telling me what to do as an authority figure, but that didn't necessarily make them a healthier choice for me to listen to. Some of them were making poor decisions and would have tried to encourage me to do the same had I gotten close to them. But I recognized that they were not good influences.

Today I still make those types of decisions. I still have moments when I want to just run off and do my own thing without listening to anyone because I don't want to be manipulated and pushed around, but I realized that those feelings don't reflect reality. I can choose who and what to listen to without being manipulated, and I can make choices because they are good, not because someone is telling me to act accordingly. I can accept others' advice and direction and still be the primary actor in my own life. I can follow whatever path I deem to be best, even if it was laid out for me by someone else. Influence is inescapable, so I must choose the right people and ideas to influence me.

1 comment:

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