Growing up, my brother Steve was big influence on my life. He set the tone for what was “expected.”
Like the time he gave me a plug of chewing tobacco and told me it was candy. I was five. I took it, inserted it into my mouth, chewed it a little bit (before I got a good taste), and then swallowed it. Steve neglected to tell me the part about not swallowing it, but putting it between your cheek and gum. I promptly got sick as a dog, and threw up out the Jeep window. Tobacco has never been a temptation for me since.
Then there was the time we were riding our horses. I must have been seven. We got close to home and my horse smelled the barn. We were off to the races. In my panic, I dropped the reins, and grabbed onto the saddle horn. Steve galloped his horse alongside mine and said, “Clay, jump onto the back of my horse like John Wayne would.”
Let me pause the story to remind all my readers that movies are not real. My mistake was I listened to my brother, instead of listening to common sense.
I let go of the saddle horn, leaped in the direction of Steve’s horse, overshot and landed on the other side. Half of the dirt of Resthaven Road found its way into my mouth. I did it because he told me to.
Of course, his favorite way of influencing me was to disown me. We would be feeding up, and he would start in: “You’re not really my brother.” Shocked, I would protest, “I am too.” He would persist, “No, you’re not. I remember going with Momma to a big orphanage in Lakeland and we picked you because you were the cheapest baby they had.” Me: “That’s not true.” Steve: “Yes it is, and if you don’t do everything I tell you, Momma’s going to send you back and get a refund.”
I would begin to cry (I was only five) and would start running toward the house. Steve would chase me, because he knew that he would be in trouble if I got to Momma first. Dodging in and out of orange trees, I threw open the screen door and ran across the front porch. As soon as I saw Momma, I would stammer out through my blubbers, “Momma, Steve says I’m adopted and you are going to return me to the orphanage in Lakeland.”
My mother, not known for her empathy, would not comfort me. She simply yelled “Steve!” and when she caught him, she would attempt to reason with him by inflicting an old fashioned spanking. After she finished, she would turn back to me, and her most loving tone, say, “Honey, you were not adopted. Just look in the mirror; you are as ugly as the rest of us.” Strangely, that was comforting.
The next day, we would be feeding up again, and Steve would say, “Remember what Momma told you about not being adopted? She lied.” This would be followed by protests, racing to the house, and more spankings.
Everyone has the ability to influence someone. If you have a brother or a sister, older or younger, you influence them. You influence your kids, of course, but also your spouse, your friends at work, even the people who sit on the row in front of you at church.
The question isn’t “Do you have influence?” The question is “How will you share your influence?”
Maybe the key is letting Jesus influencing you, so you know how to influence the other people in your life.