Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The influence of your associates

Yesterday's post looked at how the books we read influence our personal growth.  If you missed that post you can read it here.  Today we will examine how the people we associate with also influence our personal growth.

In his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership John Maxwell tells that motivational speaker Joe Larson once said, "My friends didn't believe I could become a successful speaker, so I did something about it.  I went out and found new friends." It may sound harsh, but such action is required for anyone who wants to experience personal growth but is surrounded by friends and associates who are not growing or who believe that you cannot grow.

Many years ago I read a book by an author whose name I've long forgotten, but I do remember one of the things she wrote.  She said that there are "upstairs people" who want to pull you up with them and there are "downstairs people" who want to keep you down with them.  You can never grow or move upward if you spend your time with downstairs people.  They aren't going anywhere, and they don't want anyone else going anywhere either.  They will do anything they can to keep you at their level.  Sometimes we have to make the hard choice to leave such people and look for new acquaintances who will help us achieve the things we want to achieve in life.

When I became a Christian I had to make new friends, especially at work.  I was working in a factory where the humor and comments can be rather rough.  Some of the people I often associated with before becoming a Christian were not pleased with the changes that were occurring in my life.  Eventually, I had to make a decision about whether to continue my relationship with them or to find new people who would help me become the person I believed God wanted me to be.  I tried to remain friendly with everyone, but I began to seek out new people to spend time with and soon developed relationship with Christian men who continue to impact my life.

As a new bivocational pastor with no experience and no education I knew that I needed relationships with experienced pastors I respected.  As time allowed I made appointments with these individuals to ask questions and to learn as much as I could about ministry.  Again, that also meant that some relationships had to be let go.

Sometimes you just have to walk away from people who are toxic to what you are wanting to achieve in your life, but most of the time you will just drift apart.  At least, that's the way it's usually been for me.  As I have focused on growing in specific areas of my life, I have had to give up other things I may have enjoyed doing.  That sometimes also included the relationships that were part of those activities.

If you are serious about wanting to grow personally you need to develop relationships with persons who are one or two notches above where you want to go.  If you are a pastor, you want to associate with pastors who have effective ministries so you can learn from them.  If you are a business person you want to associate with people who have more successful businesses than you have so you can learn how they achieved their success.  If you feel ineffective as a spouse or parent, identify some people who appears to be doing what you want to do in your relationships and learn what they are doing.

Find upstairs people who believe in you and want you to achieve your dreams.  These are the ones who will help you grow.

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