Be an Influence for Good

By Amy Sparkman

Whenever my children went off to play with a friend or to participate in a class away from home, my parting words to them were always the same: "Be an influence for good!" It's gotten so that now, if I don't say it – nearly 20 years after I first uttered the words! – my kids will prompt me: "Mom, you're forgetting something." More often, they get right to the point, assuring me: "Don't worry, Mom, I know what to do!" The interesting thing is that while the specific words have been repeated ad nauseum, their meaning remains potent and at the forefront of our family's thought – guiding our actions and interactions to be good and do good.

In essence, these words, "Be an influence for good" illuminate the Golden Rule. Who wouldn't want to be part of a good experience, a good process, or a good outcome? The more we add to the goodness in our lives, the more we lift others above their own issues and help them regain their own sense of goodness.

One night, one of my sons made the choice to spend the night at the home of one of his teammates with several other teammates, instead of coming home as I had requested. When I picked him up the next morning, his first words were, "Before you get upset, I just want you to know that I lived up to your words, Mom – I was an influence for good last night, and if I had to make the decision again, I would do it the same way."

The story that poured out featured two girls from his team whom he shepherded through a long night. One chose not to drink that night, but didn't think she had the strength to hold out until she got talking to my son about what she liked most about herself. The other was a very drunk girl with a history of suicide attempts whom my son sat through the night with, guiding her thoughts away from fear and depression. That was a turning point for him – a moment when he experienced the full impact of good's influence on others, and as well as on himself in how it made him feel to help someone in need.

The Bible is full of stories showing us the impact of being an influence for good. No matter the circumstances, Joseph stayed true to his sense of goodness, and every sticky situation he faced (the pit, Potiphar's wife, prison) eventually resolved in a good way. Ultimately, he saved the Egyptians and his family from famine. The blessing – the influence for good – was immeasurable, life-changing, and lasting for everyone in Joseph's path.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace because they refused to obey the king's decree to join the masses and bow down to a false god. Their determination to stay true to themselves by trusting God to be GOD enabled them to withstand the heat and the flames inside that furnace. As a result, the king changed the law and honored God. Talk about influence!

We might face Joseph experiences and fiery furnaces every day – in school, on sports teams, among friends and acquaintances, with our siblings and parents, even with strangers in check-out lines or lanes of traffic. We always have the choice to think and act rightly. At times, we might be drawn into a scenario that we wouldn't normally choose and argue that we're with our friends, and it's fun to be included, to bend the rules, or to live dangerously. What harm is there in being ourselves? None whatsoever! But if we're purposefully ignoring what we know to be good, then we're definitely compromising ourselves and are unable to help others.

Being an influence for good is premised on the knowledge that God is right here, in our midst, guiding us through the dark to the light, helping us and others understand who we all really are – all and only good. Being an influence for good is not boring or unadventurous or un-cool; it's powerful