Okay, some deep thoughts are bouncing around in my head. Here they are:
I’m only fully responsible for what I can directly control.
I’m only partly responsible for what I can influence.
I’m not responsible for what is under someone else’s direct control.
I’m not responsible for another person’s influence, even if I’m trying to influence the very same thing.
Practically speaking, this means I am only responsible for my personal share of outcomes dependent on other people’s control and influence.
Taking responsibility for other people’s influence—or worse, the outcomes dependent on their direct control—robs them of the wisdom they alone can glean from the cause of their effects and spins a dream world where they cannot learn about responsibility. And it stresses me out, because I can’t control it anyway.
The question is, which are the things I can do (directly control), and which are the things I can merely shape by my influence? Even further, which things in my life are neither under my control or under a significant amount of my influence, to the degree that I should hardly sweat them at all?
It comes back to the words Shauna speaks to our children several times a week: “We can only be responsible for our own actions.” Motives, thoughts, decisions, actions, words. That’s what I can do.
Influence, then, is about the effect those motives, thoughts, decisions, actions, and words have on other people and things.
What is spiritual fruit? Not just a positive influence. Fruit happens when God brings his affluence into confluence with our influence to produce something eternal (Sorry, I had to do the ‘fluence’ thing. It was just there, waiting for me to milk it).
All this to say, letting go of things I shouldn’t carry is easier said than done. I can prepare for, pray about, and preach a sermon. That’s what I can do. And I can influence, to some small degree, how people may think about an issue. What they do with it is out of my control.
As a parent, I can love my kids and offer guidance or even discipline. I can make sure my motives are being influenced by Jesus, I can speak kindly but firmly, I can bring scripture to bear in an ongoing “colour commentary” of our lives. I cannot control their decisions. Influence, yes. Control, no.
What does this have to do with Bruce Lee? No idea. I just thought it was a cool picture. Maybe he exemplified control. Or stellar abs. Whatever.