I believe there are three ways we influence; knowingly, inadvertently, and through others, but in order to better understand how those three play into our lives, let's define influence. The dictionary's interpretation is: "the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something." I'd like to point out that we all have the capacity to influence others. Whether we like it or not, everything we do effects other's view of us, good or bad, and will inevitably shape their lives in some direction. What we decide to do with our influence is a matter of choice.
The first choice is a positive one, we can use our influence to help and mentor others, helping them learn from our mistakes, or helping them make tough decisions.
The second is to pretend we don't have influence and live life concerning ourselves only with what is best for ourselves, never stoping to wonder what others may be learning from us. There have been people who I know that have influenced me without even knowing it. Sometimes this is in the form of someone I look up to, and other times I see someone and I decide that I never want to be who they are or make the decisions they're making in life.
Finally, there's the third kind, through others. Some of the best lessons I've learned in life or in my faith are passed on. These lessons or influence can take the form of stories, examples, and even a random quote that can be applied to my life. Did the person who's experiences prompted those stories or quotes know that they would one day come into contact with my life or help me solve a problem? Probably not.
I suppose what I'm saying here is that we all have influence, whether we realize it or not, and when we wake up to the fact that we do, we can either go on and pretend we never knew it in the first place, or we can reach those being influenced by us. It's not just a choice, it's a life model, to live out an example for others to see, look up to, and imitate. This is why I believe that influence isn't limited to just life skills or good advice, it goes much deeper than that. There is something that is fundamentally important to how we use our influence. That something is God. The core of who I am is centered around His word and how he tells me to live my life. Behavior, character, and development are all filtered through the net of his word, and the result is a better me. I'm not perfect, far from it, but there are times when I feel a sense of purpose, calling, and hope that I find nowhere else.
Those times are when I'm reaching others with the hope I've been given through Christ. I ache to tell others the joy I've found in him. Thank God for influence. Without it, all we can do is tell, and I wish to do more than that. I want to show others how He has changed my life.