Certain individuals have that kind of irresistible and flaming influence. It is the power of one. Such individuals bring out the best in others. They know how to get the extra effort from the people they are around. They possess a knack for inspiring people. They have the ability to foster hope in discouraging times. They rally discouraged people to achieve specific goals in the midst of overwhelming odds.
Their influence is like a fire on a cold, lifeless piece of iron. While many attempts have been made to break the iron, all have failed. But the small, soft flame curls around the iron, embracing it, and never leaving the iron until it melts under the flame’s irresistible influence.
History reminds us of influencing people. Napoleon when on the battlefield was, in balance, according to Wellington, the equivalent of fighting against another 40,000 men. England and perhaps the whole Western world owes its existence to the ability of Winston Churchill to breathe hope into a dispirited and frightened nation and rally its citizens to stand strong and courageous against the onslaught of the dreaded Nazi fighting machine.
What is it about these influencing people that we can learn from that will enable us to have the same kind of influence?
Influencing individuals have an undeniable dream.
All influencing individuals know where they are going. They have a clear sense of direction. A reason for living. A clearly defined purpose for life. Victor Hugo, the French poet, wrote, “There is nothing like a dream to create the future.”
Influencing people see as secondary the climbing a ladder of status or chasing a gold mine of wealth, those things will not last beyond the grave. Rather, they dream of impacting people for eternity. They give themselves to the attainment of that pursuit. And, as William James once stated, “The best use of your life is to invest it in something that will out last it.”
Influencing individuals have an unflappable tenacity.
Persons of tenacity refuse to quit. Nothing will discourage them. They attack life with tenacity. They possess remarkable staying power. They refuse to quit. They know that life cannot deny itself to the person who gives life his all. When faced with a mountain they do not quit. They keep on striving until they climb over, find a pass through, tunnel underneath or turn the mountain into a gold mind.
Influencing individuals have an undaunted faith.
Undaunted faith is committed to high ideals. People of faith will not allow their principles to be compromised. Undaunted faith is revealed in adverse conditions. People of faith are never victims of circumstances, but victors over circumstances. Undaunted faith is optimistic about tomorrow. People of faith know that when one door is shut another door that is bigger and wider a little farther down the road will be opened. Undaunted faith is persisting when we don’t feel like it. People of faith know that feelings are like a caboose on a train, present but not essential to the ultimate arrival of the objective.
Influencing individuals have an unyielding compassion.
Influencing individuals demonstrate a care and compassion for the people they are around. This love propels them to making a difference.
Love keeps the flame of influence burning brightly. Tielhard de Chardin said it this way: “The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.”
One person can make a difference. Consider, by way of example, John Woolman, an American Quaker who lived in the 1700s. His journal is considered a literary treasure and is still studied in many English classes. His most memorable accomplishment, however, had to do with the process of deep change. During the eighteenth century, many Quakers were wealthy, conservative slave owners. Woolman dedicated his adult life to eliminating the practice of slavery among his brethren.
Woolman pursued this effort by using the art of gentle persuasion. He spent more than twenty years visiting Quakers along the East Coast. He did not criticize people, nor did he make them angry. He merely asked questions like, “What does it mean to be a moral person? What does it mean to own a slave? What does it mean to will a slave over to one’s children? Driven by his vision, he persisted, visiting farm after farm.
By 1770, a century before the Civil War, not one Quaker owned a slave. The Quakers were the first religious group to denounce and renounce slavery. In recounting this story, Robert Greenleaf (1991) points out:
"One wonders what would have been the result if there had been fifty John Woolmans, or even five, traveling the length and breadth of the Colonies in the eighteenth century persuading people, one by one, with gentle nonjudgmental argument that a wrong should be righted by individual voluntary action. Perhaps we would not have had the war with its 600,000 casualties and the impoverishment of the South, and with the resultant vexing social problem that is at fever heat 100 years later with no end in sight. We know now, in the perspective of history, that just a slight alleviation of the tension in the 1850s might have avoided the war. A few John Woolmans, just a few, might have made the difference."
Woolman hated the idea of slavery and found it intolerable. He was determined to change the minds of his fellow Quakers. His vision, courage, and persistence transformed his church.
One person has the power to make a difference: A difference in one’s marriage, one’s family, one’s home, one’s work, one’s school, one’s church, one’s community, one’s nation, and one’s world.