Napoleon Hill once wrote that “it seems to be human nature for people to live up to the reputation others give them”. I’m confident you would agree with that statement. We have all seen people who have been repeatedly told they were “good for nothing” and they end up living passive lives, far below their true potential. Conversely, I’ve seen people of very ordinary talent achieve extraordinary things simply because they were surrounded by people who believed in them and told them they would succeed. I’m often drawn back to a lyric by John Lawry which states simply that “we are what we are, and that’s what we allow”. We are affected by the voices around us, and quite often we allow ourselves to be defined by the opinions of others. I have read of countless doctors and lawyers, people who are successful by the standards of society, who are actually miserable because they are living a life created for them by the expectations of others rather than a life based on their own passions. Those to whom you listen will have a profound impact on the way you live, so it is vital to choose carefully who you allow to speak into your life.
As followers of Jesus, the person to whom we should listen to most is Christ Himself. Only He can tell us exactly who we were created to become. Regardless of what others may say, only He knows our true potential and capabilities. He has placed gifts and passions within each of us that are as unique as snowflakes and as personal as fingerprints. No one else possesses the beautiful mixture of talents and abilities that reside within each one of us. For too long we have listened to voices other than Jesus that have caused us to hide, bury, or even discard pieces of whom we are. We become broken, discouraged and in possession of a self image that is anything but the truth. There is hope, however, because the damage is not fatal. We can choose to begin to reassemble the pieces at any time in our lives. We need only to stop listening to the world around us, and instead turn our attention to the voice within.
Not one person is here by accident. We are all created with a soul that longs to commune with God and to express His love to others. We begin to get in trouble when we start listening to the opinions of who others say we are. Instead of being special creations immensely loved by God, we become societal failures who contribute little to society. Instead of being victors and overcomers we choose to believe we are losers who can never get ahead. We are living up to a reputation ascribed to us by others. Why would we choose to believe what imperfect, selfish and jealous people say about us rather than accept the words of the One who created us? We are marked by God, created to do good things, to reflect His glory to the very ones who try and drag us down. We need to stop listening to those who only wish to make us feel inferior so that they might feel better about themselves. Instead, we need to listen to the One who loves us more than His own life.
It is a well researched fact that you will become like those with whom you choose to associate. We all choose to whom we will listen, but these choices need not be permanent; we can choose at any moment to disassociate with the naysayers and begin to listen to the One who created us. If you’re going to live up to a reputation that someone else gives you, make sure the one you are listening to is God. If you change who you listen to, you will change yourself. Change yourself and you just might change the world.