4 Characteristics of Influencing People

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During the Eighteenth Century, many Quakers were wealthy, conservative slave owners. John Woolman, a Quaker, dedicated his adult life to eliminating the practice of slavery among his brethren. 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 influenced a whole generation of people to give up slavery.

By 1770, a century before the Civil War, not one Quaker owned a slave.

Certain individuals, like John Woolman, have that kind of irresistible and flaming influence that brings out the best in others. 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.

What characterizes influencing people?

An undeniable dream. Woolman’s vision was to rid the world of slavery. 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.”

An unflappable tenacity. Woolman devoted much of his adult life to his dream. Influencing people refuse to quit. Nothing will discourage them. They possess remarkable staying power. They know that life cannot deny itself to the person who gives life his all. When faced with a mountain they keep on striving until they climb over, find a pass through, tunnel underneath or turn the mountain into a gold mine.

An undaunted faith. Woolman believed that his fellow Quakers would see the moral light. Influencing people will not allow their principles to be compromised. They are never victims of circumstances, but victors over circumstances. They are optimistic about tomorrow. They know that when one door is shut another door that is bigger and wider a little farther down the road will be opened.

An unyielding compassion. Woolman saw that all people regardless of skin color deserved to be free. Influencing individuals demonstrate a care and compassion for the people they are around. 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.”

John Woolman possessed each of these characteristics. Because of his efforts, 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, his state, and ultimately his country.

One person has the power to influence 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.

 

About Rick Ezell

I am a husband, father, pastor, and writer.

This blog is about shaping character, transforming church, and impacting culture. I believe that if one defines their moments then their moments will determine their character and their character will influence their world.

I write on personal development, church leadership, and our changing culture. I also write about the resources I am developing and the books I am writing.

My goal is to create challenging, relevant, and inspiring content that will help you be a better person, the church be a better parish, and the world a better place. If you are interested in those things, this blog is for you.

I have served the church my entire career as a student minister and senior pastor. I studied at Samford University, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (eventually I will get it).

I have written eight books. My most recent ones are Chapter 13: The Excellence of Love and Soul Therapy: The Healing Words of Psalm 23. Both are available as eBooks. I have written over 1000 articles for various local, regional, and national publications.

I have been married to Cindy for thirty-three years. We have one wonderful daughter. We live in Greenville, SC.

In my free time, I enjoy writing, reading, running, tennis, and golf.

You can contact me via email or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

This is my personal blog. The opinions I express here do not necessarily represent those of my employer. The information I provide is on an as-is basis. I make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its use.

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