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Who in your life has served as a positive influence? How did he/she/they do that?

Today’s divided America would do well to re-visit a very successful gentleman from the prior century named Dale Carnegie. Dale grew up in rural midwestern poverty but found himself excelling in first high school and then college as a member of his inter-scholastic debate teams. Interesting, then, that he should account for these two points he used to make in his subsequent teaching lectures on “How to Win Friends and Influence Other People” (his book by this same title is still in print nearly 87 years later).

1. "You can't win an argument. If you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it."

2. "There is only one way to get the best of an argument -- and that is to avoid it."

Soon America will be plunged into another season of political debates where winning is assumed to require effective arguing. Candidates will be given short amounts of time to make their own arguments for why they should lead our country. They will routinely exceed their allotted time despite promising to abide by the rules of debate; an indication of broken promises to come. Millions of Americans will tune them out, and sadly many of those millions will not even vote; perhaps for lack of, well, influence by those presuming to lead our nation.

Instead of loving influence in American leadership today, we suffer from fearful control.Candidates gain control over their voter base by arguing against their frightening opponents.Fear drives our political discourse, which then goes public through our broad range of media, and our national narrative then becomes that of power struggles to gain control over one’s political enemies. Lost in all such nonsense is that simple understanding of how to win friends and influence people.

Dale Carnegie, where art thou?

Some of the quotes from his 1936 best selling book included:

"The rare individual who unselfishly tries to serve others has an enormous advantage."

"Success in dealing with people depends on a sympathetic grasp of the other person’s viewpoint."

"Remember a name and call it easily and you have paid a subtle and very effective compliment."

"Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to."

"Three-fourths of the people you will meet are hungering for sympathy. Give it to them and they will love you."

"Every person I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of her/him."

The fact that his book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” continues in print today gives me hope. But the basis for my hope comes from another book still in print after several hundred years, still the all-time best-seller, and one containing such quotes as these”

Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

“If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of the others— like the Son of Man, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life to redeem many people.”

These quotes from Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Bible are among many that stress the same points Dale Carnegie would make many years later. And while both of these men had their differences, I wonder if there’s not something they have to offer us in America and beyond as 2023 continues on. Influence is the outcome of love. Love does not control. Love seeks to influence by losing control in our relationships in order to gain influence. Love empowers others to be the best persons they can become. Love works from “under” rather than “over” others in relationship. And in doing so it casts out fear, which is in itself America’s public enemy #1 these days.

Once again, who in your life has served as a positive influence? How did he/she/they do that?

Chances are good that it was someone more like Jesus……and Dale…….who knew and understood and cared for your need above all, and who thereby loved you instead of scaring you.

Which leads to perhaps the most important questions of all these days:

Now in whose life can you serve as a positive influence?

How will you do that?

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