Ignorance is no excuse for violation of any law. Realizing this, we must take greater care to educate ourselves on the power of personal influence, for people often undermine their own stated goals and desires without even knowing it.
William George Jordan offers a plateful of food for thought on the matter in Chapter 3 of his book, “The Majesty of Calmness”:
“Into the hands of every individual is given a marvellous power for good or for evil,–the silent, unconscious, unseen influence of his life. This is simply the constant radiation of what a man really is, not what he pretends to be. Every man, by his mere living, is radiating sympathy, or sorrow, or morbidness, or cynicism, or happiness, or hope, or any of a hundred other qualities. Life is a state of constant radiation and absorption; to exist is to radiate; to exist is to be the recipient of radiations.
There are men and women whose presence seems to radiate sunshine, cheer and optimism. You feel calmed and rested and restored in a moment to a new and stronger faith in humanity. There are others who focus in an instant all your latent distrust, morbidness and rebellion against life. Without knowing why, you chafe and fret in their presence. You lose your bearings on life and its problems. Your moral compass is disturbed and unsatisfactory. It is made untrue in an instant, as the magnetic needle of a ship is deflected when it passes near great mountains of iron ore.
There are men who float down the stream of life like icebergs,–cold, reserved, unapproachable and self-contained. In their presence you involuntarily draw your wraps closer around you, as you wonder who left the door open. These refrigerated human beings have a most depressing influence on all those who fall under the spell of their radiated chilliness. But there are other natures, warm, helpful, genial, who are like the Gulf Stream, following their own course, flowing undaunted and undismayed in the ocean of colder waters. Their presence brings warmth and life and the glow of sunshine, the joyous, stimulating breath of spring. There are men who are like malarious swamps,–poisonous, depressing and weakening by their very presence. They make heavy, oppressive and gloomy the atmosphere of their own homes; the sound of the children’s play is stilled, the ripples of laughter are frozen by their presence. They go through life as if each day were a new big funeral, and they were always chief mourners. There are other men who seem like the ocean; they are constantly bracing, stimulating, giving new draughts of tonic life and strength by their very presence.
There are men who are insincere in heart, and that insincerity is radiated by their presence. They have a wondrous interest in your welfare,–when they need you. They put on a “property” smile so suddenly, when it serves their purpose, that it seems the smile must be connected with some electric button concealed in their clothes. Their voice has a simulated cordiality that long training may have made almost natural. But they never play their part absolutely true, the mask will slip down sometimes; their cleverness cannot teach their eyes the look of sterling honesty; they may deceive some people, but they cannot deceive all. There is a subtle power of revelation which makes us say: “Well, I cannot explain how it is, but I know that man is not honest.”
Man cannot escape for one moment from this radiation of his character, this constantly weakening or strengthening of others. He cannot evade the responsibility by saying it is an unconscious influence. He can select the qualities that he will permit to be radiated. He can cultivate sweetness, calmness, trust, generosity, truth, justice, loyalty, nobility,–make them vitally active in his character,–and by these qualities he will constantly affect the world.”
This is a matter of utmost importance, of not just personal or national but global security. Jordan suggest that you “…cannot evade the responsibility by saying it is an unconscious influence.” and furthermore that you “…can select the qualities that he will permit to be radiated.” What a relief! What an eye opener!
YOU HAVE A CHOICE!
The question remains, will you exercise that choice or will you, as so many before you have done, simply relinquish your right to choose in favor of whatever the default may be. Take note, however, that rarely is the default the optimal choice for the good of mankind. There may be some short term relief from pressure or perhaps gain, the appearance of progress or what have you, but the default has become over time what we now call “human nature.”
For some, human nature is the only quality given air time in expression. Others might occasionally play an uncommon (and likely less popular) yet more virtuous tune after being inspired by someone or something. You, however, are called to a higher and finer expression of character.
Dare to admit it. But don’t stop there, do something about it!
The future is in your hands.