Influencer or Influenced?
My husband and I love watching British detective shows! It’s like putting a puzzle together – requiring all our attention to detail, challenging our memory, and (when it’s a particularly well-done show) causing us to suggest our best guesses for “who done it.” These shows generate very good, philosophical conversations between us – ethical and moral dilemmas, the clarity of good versus evil, the challenge of “gray areas” and so on.
Last night in the stunning season finale of one series we enjoy, a young detective subordinate had been duped into believing her corrupt boss was brave and honest. Doug and I paused the show and discussed what a shame it is when young people are influenced to believe a lie because of their innocent trust in the person under whose authority they work.
I was reminded of something I’d read earlier in the day that hit on this exact point. I’ve been reading The Ways We Choose by Dave Carey, a retired Naval officer who spent over 5 years in the “Hanoi Hilton” - a prisoner-of-war (POW) camp in Vietnam. He told about a group of young officer POWs who had been influenced into believing lies told by two men who were senior in rank and were Commanding Officers of aviation squadrons prior to their capture.
The two senior officers had chosen to believe the propaganda of their captors and cooperated with them during their captivity. They’d been held in a separate part of the prison, living under entirely different conditions from the large group of brave men who were continuing to operate as best they could with military order, discipline and honor – in spite of their tremendously difficult circumstances. The five young officers were held nearby, not realizing that there was another large community of fellow officers/prisoners.
Dave describes how he and the other POWs learned of this isolated group of five and began to reach out and communicate with them – and how, over time, these five began to realize that they had been wrongly influenced by the two senior officers. He says “I was astounded by how easily the five men were led astray and influenced. Those five weren’t any different than any of us: they had been through all the training…they knew how they were supposed to conduct themselves. Yet when placed in that position, they did precisely what they knew they should not. Granted they did so reluctantly and with lots of arguing, but they did it. People are easily influenced.”
We are all “influence-able” – and can all be prone to go astray little by little, moving farther and farther away from what we know to be right and true. Dave also says: “We don’t set out to be unethical or immoral. We deviate a little at a time, until one day, when it all blows up in our faces, we wake up. Then our immediate reaction is, ‘How did I ever allow this to happen to me?’”
So, the question is – at any given time - are you an influencer or are you the influenced? Whether you realize it or not, regardless of your vocation, position, or station in life – you are an influencer! You can also be the influenced!
We must be aware daily who we have the privilege and responsibility to influence (whether or not we are intentional about it). We need to turn on our radar and put on our superhero detector glasses. We must be alert to what or who is influencing us so we can be a “force for good” and not fall prey to the little-by-little, inch-by-inch deception which can lead us astray.