Think about all that’s happened in the history of the world. Everything has happened because somebody made a decision to act in a certain way. Think how many people were affected because of those decisions.
Sure, the big decisions affected a lot of people and that’s why they made history, but they started off with one person having a thought and deciding to act on it. Whether it was Hitler deciding the Jews needed to be culled out of the human race or Nelson Mandela deciding it was time to stand up against racial oppression in South Africa, each person started the ball rolling with an initial thought. Whether they shared their thought with other people first and together they made the decision to act, or whether that one person acted on their decision and others decided to join him or her after the fact, the result is the same. Thousands upon thousands of lives were affected.
It’s easy to forget how interconnected our lives are with so many others on a daily basis and, just like ripples spreading outward from a pebble thrown in a pond, what we say and do affects and influences those around us. Consider how many people can get stirred up by some offhand comment or opinion someone posts on social media.
None of us lives in a vacuum. Every choice we make and every action we take affects someone else in some way.
Even my decision to get up for work today had the potential to change things for a lot more people than I might imagine, especially since I work in the medical field and I may be called upon to do my small part in helping to save someone’s life today 😊.
Getting to work put one more car on the road, and since I didn’t have or cause an accident (thankfully), only traffic, pollution, and wear and tear on the road and my tires was proportionately increased.
On days I have to fill up on gas, it means the oil company has to provide more gas to the station, which affects a job not only at the gas station but also the oil pipeline, the refinery, the tanker company, etc.
My decision to buy a latte today meant my coffee shop sold one more beverage, which helped boost their business because they’ll have to get more coffee beans in. That ripples to the shipping company, the processing plant, the coffee growers, and those harvesting the beans.
My hunger prompted me to eat something which means I’ll have to eventually replace what I ate and so the local supermarket will sell some more groceries (I’m sure I pay someone’s wage there with how much I spend each month anyway). Also, the farmer or manufacturer that provided that item will be called upon to provide some replacements, etc.
You get the picture.
Sure, most of the effects listed above that I may have caused are fairly benign things that hopefully contribute in a meaningful way, at least in boosting the economy. Those are potentially positive ripples, but consider some other decisions people make.
Think about the person who decides to get behind the wheel after drinking and kills someone in an accident. That was a decision made without enough forethought to really consider all the possible consequences — one that will drastically change the rest of their life, as well as the lives of the victim’s loved ones. Those are massive and long-lasting ripples. I’m not judging because I’ve driven after drinking in my younger years as well. Not something I’m proud of now, but I am very thankful the Lord kept me, and everyone else on the road at the time, safe from my reckless driving.
Think about the teenager who decides not to wait until marriage to have sex and ends up pregnant. That decision, made in the heat of the moment, without thinking through all the possible consequences, brings a new life into the world and dramatically changes both teenagers’ lives, as well as the lives of their extended family.
Think about the person who decides to give in to the temptation to try meth or crack or heroin (or whatever addictive substance or activity). Whether it’s because some friends are doing it, just for the thrill of it, or to dull some underlying psychological pain, that decision can have life changing consequences, either immediately with an overdose or bad reaction, or in the long term with addiction.
Trouble is, all these decisions not only affect the person who acts on it, but the effects ripple out to their friends and family, the health professionals involved in their care, and society in general from the resulting social issues, legal ramifications, medical programs, and financial costs to pay for them all.
Think about the people you’ve had contact with this week. They range from casual acquaintances, like the person at the drive-thru window or in line at the grocery store, to those in your immediate family, like your spouse, child, or parent.
Consider a hypothetical scenario with me…
What if the last words I spoke to my child each morning before school were often harsh and critical because we were always running late and I was mad at my husband? What impression and feeling would that leave them with? How would that affect their self-talk? How would that affect their performance in class or their interactions with their friends?
Maybe my relationship with my husband isn’t so good because of baggage we’re both carrying around from our childhoods. How would we have developed those personal issues? That’s right — from interactions with our parents, family, friends, and other significant authority figures as we were growing up, as well as our circumstances, our culture, etc.
In that example, my relationship with my husband affects my attitude towards the kids and that trickles down to affect not only all my other daily interactions, but also the children’s day, and even their future because they learn so much from the adults in their lives.
Children, especially, are highly influenced by what they hear and see. They are like little sponges, soaking up everything going on around them. Think about how how easily they pick up lines from movies or mimic something we said or did when we didn’t even realize they were listening or watching.
It’s critical to be aware of, and in control of, our thoughts, actions, and words, because so often, we don’t even pay attention to who is watching or listening to us, or consider the impression we’re leaving them with.
You know, sometimes even the simplest things can make a world of difference in someone’s life.
What if the fact that I made eye contact with someone and smiled as I passed by was just the sign that person needed to be reminded that God loved them and had heard their prayer?
What if an encouraging word said to a stranger was just the thing they needed to turn them from hopelessness, despair, and suicidal thoughts?
When I was going through my second divorce, I forced myself to go to church like my lawyer recommended, so as to improve my chances of gaining custody of my toddler girls. I felt so out of my comfort zone.
My first Sunday to visit a local church with my girls in tow, a sweet woman with young daughters around the same age as mine, was thoughtful enough to strike up a conversation with me. She was genuinely friendly and welcoming. If she hadn’t eased my apprehension and made me feel comfortable, I’m not sure I would have returned.
We were friends for many years after that day, and although I haven’t seen her in a couple of years now, I’m eternally grateful for the ripples from that single act of kindness, because I know she made the difference between me staying long enough to become a Christian a few months later or possibly running from the Lord for several more years.
Be conscious of your interactions with those you come across today, especially anyone younger, on whom you may have more influence than you realize. Treat each encounter as God-ordained and see what you can do to improve someone’s day.
Think about each decision you make and consider the ripples your actions will have on others. Are they positive ripples? Are you doing your best to be a good example to those around you?
We should all strive to think about the effect we’re having on others and purposefully be a positive influence because as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (CEV): “Some of you say, ‘We can do whatever we want to!’ But I tell you not everything may be good or helpful. We should think about others and not about ourselves.”